This week, Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi named Jahtonia Wilson of Haven Acres – Tupelo their 2023 Youth of the Year, with Oxford’s own Zoey Jones taking first runner-up.
Each club in the BGCNM area nominates its Youth of the Year who then competes before a panel of judges for the distinct honor of being named the organization’s YOY.
Other club members participating were A’Rian Story of Northside – Tupelo, Patience Isom of Ripley and Ezekiel Houston of New Albany
Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive.
The program was founded more than 75 years ago through the generosity of the Reader’s Digest Foundation.
To achieve the title of Youth of the Year, Club members must embody the values of leadership and service; academic excellence; and healthy lifestyles and also exemplify the critical impact that Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives of young people.
This year’s judges were Lisa Nichols, Eddie Prather and O’Nae Chatman.
In March, Wilson will represent the organization in a State competition competing with other BGC youth from across Mississippi for the title of Mississippi Youth of the Year. The winner of the State competition receives $2,500 in scholarships to the college of their choice.
Zoey Jones said that her local Oxford Boys & Girls Club has helped her develop the skills necessary for her to be prepared for the real world. There, she says she has been encouraged to step outside of her comfort zone. She has learned skills such as financial savings, through programs such as Money Matters and learned about maturity through the Club’s SMART Girls program.
She has also developed supportive relationships with staff members who serve as mentors. Through leadership programs, she has been encouraged to volunteer in her local community.
“The world needs more successful women, especially more successful black women,” Jones said. “I am going to show younger black women that they can do anything they set their mind to. Nothing is impossible.”