Youth of the Year ceremony set

Shelby Houghton

MILFORD – Five teens at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley have been busy finalizing essays, organizing letters of recommendation, giving short interviews and preparing speeches in preparation for the club’s annual Youth of the Year Awards Ceremony at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 16.

Lily Ayotte, Shelby Houghton, Nicole Jutras, Jon Merchant and Katy Osterholtz are the finalists.

The event is the first step toward winning the Boys & Girls Club of America national Youth of the Year Award. The winner of the local competition, chosen by several judges, will go on to compete in Concord at the state level against the winners from other clubs across New Hampshire.

The five finalists were nominated by staff members and chosen based on their service to the club, leadership and interpersonal skills, and ability to embody the club’s “core values” of integrity, respect, community, teamwork and fun. Many of them have participated in club programs since they were young, and some, including Houghton, Osterholtz and Jutras, have come full circle, as they are now staff members for a new generation of kids.

For others, such as Ayotte, the club runs in the family; she followed the example of her two siblings and has been acting onstage since she was in elementary school. Now, as a junior at Milford High School, she just landed one of the lead roles in the Riverbend Youth Company’s spring musical.

Nicole Jutras

But there is a common theme among all of the high school students: The BGC has helped make them who they are today.

“The club has taught me how to be who I want to be, not a mold that someone else is telling me to fit into,” said Merchant, a senior at Milford High School. “It taught me how to stand out in a society that tells me to fit in. I think that’s really important to who I am.”

Houghton, another Milford High student, agreed: “I learned what it means to be a good leader, with confidence, and what it means to be a good citizen – those things have shaped me a lot, and those are qualities I wouldn’t have without the Boys & Girls Club.”

For Jutras and Osterholtz, the club’s influence will stretch beyond their high school experience.

“I want to be a teacher,” said Jutras, a Milford High junior. “I think the club has given me more experience to be around kids and understanding them better. It made me want to be a teacher.”

Lily Ayotte

Osterholtz, a senior at Souhegan High School, said she’s “thinking about going into public policy, and that is completely due to the club.” She said she has had the opportunity to see firsthand the value of the club to the community, and that she believes it’s her duty to find work helping similar organizations find the support and funding they need and deserve.

Also to be announced are the 2017 Club Volunteers of the Year, the Civic Supporter of the Year and the 2017 SVBGC Community Champion.

– Submitted by Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley

Katy Osterholtz

Jon Merhcant