ATLANTA – Kimberly Heard, a member of the A.R. “Gus” Barksdale Boys & Girls Club in Conyers, was recently named the 2020 Youth of the Year for Georgia. Competing with more than 20 teens from Boys & Girls Clubs across the state, Heard was chosen for her strong leadership and unwavering commitment to making a difference in her school, club, and community. The prestigious Youth of the Year award is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s highest honor, recognizing teens from clubs across the country who are working hard, investing in themselves, and demonstrating leadership.
During the two-day competition, hundreds of attendees heard from these young leaders about where they started, how their clubs helped shape who they are today, and the big dreams they have for the future. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, sound like, or where you come from because it doesn’t determine your worth.”
When Heard joined the club in 2016, she had anxiety in social situations and a fear of engaging with others, particularly teachers. She says participating in the arts programs at her club helped her connect with her feelings and come out of her shell.
Her participation in CareerBound, a career readiness program, and Money Matters, which teaches kids the principles of saving money, helped Heard broaden her horizons. She says the Keystone service and leadership program for high school students has taught her the value of giving back and making good choices.
Through Keystone, she learned to embrace connections with others, stand up for herself and to present as a leader. At the club, Heard enjoys going “to the other side of the building” to help take care of the smaller kids.
Heard wants to advocate for kids who are under-represented, and improve the standard of equality in America. If she could change one thing in the world, it would be “improving the access of information in communities.”
“If there was more information on life beyond college, I feel like the success rate for students would be higher, but also the happiness of both students and adults,” said Heard.
Heard, a graduating senior, has big dreams after high school. She wants to go to a four-year college and study aerospace engineering.
“I aspire to be an aerospace engineer. Space is so fascinating to me; I want to be a part of the reason why we learn more about both ourselves as species, and the world around us,” she said.
Leading up to the announcement of Youth of the Year, candidates participated in interview sessions, delivered speeches, drafted essays, and submitted dozens of letters of recommendation. The Youth of the Year program helps teens build critical skills they will use in the workplace and beyond.
During their visit to Atlanta, they also took in sights with a tour of the CNN Center and College Football Hall of Fame. Key leaders and supporters also honored the teens with appearances and remarks.
“We’re really grateful for the support of local leaders who invest in the future of our youth,” said Virginia Lawley, senior director of teen services for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. “Through our shared vision, we are building positive, productive young leaders like Kimberly that will shape our city and our world.”
As Youth of the Year for Georgia, Heard was awarded a $2,500 college scholarship. Top supporters including Disney, Toyota, University of Phoenix, and The Taco Bell Foundation help provide funds to support these scholarships and the overall program.
In the summer of 2020, Heard will represent Georgia as Youth of the Year at the Southeast competition. If Heard takes top prize at this event, she will continue to the national competition in the fall where she will have a chance to speak before Congress as a representative of Boys & Girls Club. The winner will also receive a renewable scholarship.
BGCMA serves nearly 2,800 kids and teens each year. The Youth of the Year competition is part of a broader year-round program that helps youth develop character and leadership skills. BGCMA also focuses on helping youth succeed in college and career and live healthy. By 2020, the organization is working to ensure that 90 percent of the youth it serves are graduating on time, living healthy, and giving back.
BGCMA thanks all of its corporate and individual sponsors for opening doors for our youth. For more information on how you can become involved in shaping great futures, visit www.bgcma.org/get_involved.
About Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta’s mission is to save and change the lives of children and teens, especially those who need us most, by providing a safe, positive and engaging environment and programs that prepare and inspire them to achieve Great Futures. Through 20+ Clubs in 10 metro counties, trained and professional staff serve nearly 2,800 youth (ages 6-18) daily through programs that helps kids and teens get college and career ready, live healthy, and develop character and leadership skills. BGCMA also oversees Camp Kiwanis, a 160-acre outdoor residence camp. While the cost to effectively serve those who need us most is approximately $5,700 per member, families are asked to pay between $60 and $135 per child each year based on income; and no child is turned away due to inability to pay. For more information, please visit www.bgcma.org.
About Boys & Girls Clubs of America
For more than 150 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (bgca.org) has enabled young people most in need to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, 4,300 Clubs serve 4 million young people annually through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in cities, towns, public housing and on Native lands throughout the country, and serve military families in BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide. They provide a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun, friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Priority programs emphasize academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. In a Harris Survey of alumni, 54 percent said the Club saved their lives. National headquarters are located in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.bgca.org/facebook and http://bgca.org/twitter.