Milford teen honored as Youth of Year

Rich Lowney, left, president of the New Hampshire Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, is shown with Shelby Houghton, the 2017 New Hampshire Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. To her left are Lisa Hunter, director of organizational development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Tom Leoni, operations director of Ninety Nine Restaurants.

MANCHESTER – A tough competition culminated in the selection of Shelby Houghton, a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley, as the New Hampshire Youth of the Year.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America title, bestowed at Saint Anselm College in Manchester on May 25, recognizes excellence in leadership, service to community, academic prowess and the embrace of a healthy lifestyle.

The contenders included Jhanise Linda Cardona, of Nashua; Abigail Elliott-Orr, of Salem; Justin Smith, of Manchester; and Nico Buccieri, of Derry.

The Youth of the Year program, in place for some 70 years, underscores the club’s mission of encouraging all young people to lead a successful life. Volunteer work has been a priceless part of the SVBGC experience, said Houghton, 16, a junior at Milford High School.

“In my experience, community service has taught me more about who I am, who I want to be and what I want the world to look like,” she said. “I meet the most incredible kids and young adults through my work with SVBGC, and I’m constantly amazed by the people I meet and stories I hear.”

The honor included a $5,000 scholarship from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a $1,000 scholarship from the Ninety Nine Restaurants and $10,000 from an anonymous donor.

Houghton will now serve as a youth ambassador, interacting with teens across the state. She also qualifies for regional and national awards.

Houghton embraced her local Boys & Girls Club, at 56 Mont Vernon St. in Milford, when she joined in 2010. She credits the club for bulwarking her confidence and inspiring her to be her best. She attributes her passion for music to those she has met there.

Houghton said she is deeply grateful to mentor Julia Arciere, the staff and the administrators at the club.

“The club has been incredible for me, as it has for countless other kids in our area,” Houghton said. “My education at MHS, my time at the club and my supportive family and mentors prepared me incredibly for my success in the New Hampshire Youth of the Year competition.”

Houghton has proved to be an unstoppable go-getter. She is the drum major for the Milford High marching band, and she is active in 18 extracurricular activities at school and in the club.

Others, including Jim Clark, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of America, concur with the go-getter description. He said after the ceremony that Houghton and all of the nominees are proof that clubs across the country inspire young people and prompt them to achieve great futures.

“Being named Youth of the Year is a lifelong honor,” Clark said. “As the New Hampshire Youth of the Year, Shelby will serve as a spokesperson for our young people, sharing her inspiring story and leading the way to transform communities for the better.”

Susan Taylor, director of the Souhegan Valley chapter, noted that despite the excitement on the evening of the award ceremony, Houghton was back at the club the next day. Taylor said Houghton confided to some of the youth members that any one of them could achieve greatness, especially if they took advantage of the many educational, recreational and leadership programs the club provides.

Some club members already are advanced in many avocations, Taylor said, especially in the club’s theater programs, performed at the club’s in-house, 460-seat Amato Center for the Performing Arts.

“From my perspective, Shelby is set apart due to her dedication to learning, leading and living the best life she can,” Taylor said. “She exemplifies the impact Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley can have on the lives of young people.”

This summer, Houghton and other state winners will vie for the Northeast Regional title. The winner will garner another $10,000 in college scholarships, renewable for four years up to $40,000.

Six youths, including five regional winners and a military youth winner, will advance to Washington, D.C., to try for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. The winner will receive a $25,000 scholarship, renewable for four years up to $100,000. An opportunity to meet with President Trump in the White House caps the experience.

That grand finale will take place in September.

Taylor said Houghton’s willingness to volunteer for whatever is needed sets a good example to all involved. She said the staff works hard to instill in members values such as an appreciation for citizenship, the nurturing of good character and the willingness to help others.

“Shelby clearly understands her responsibility to contribute to her school, the Boys & Girls Club and the community in a positive way,” Taylor said. “She devotes much of her time to helping do her part to make the world a better place.”

Loretta Jackson can be reached at 594-1246 or