Boys & Girls Club of the Souhegan Valley honors Houghton

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart From left to right, SBCSV Board President Bob Heaton, Governor Chris Sununu, Youth of the Year Shelby Houghton and SBCSV Executive Director Mike Goodwin stand for a photo after presenting Houghton with her award.

AMHERST – Four youth finalists were recognized at the Boys & Girls Club of the Souhegan Valley Youth of the Year and Community Awards, and one was selected as the winner to move closer to potentially becoming National Youth of the Year.

Community members also were recognized in various

categories at the event, hosted

at LaBelle Winery.

Shelby Houghton was selected as BGCSV Youth of the Year winner and said, “When the room of my life felt empty, the Boys & Girls Club reminded me to fill it with what truly matters. When I started going to the club in fourth grade, I learned to express my bright personality with rock climbing and theater,” adding that, “Over time, I sought refuge there. Long days of drunken fights at home were replaced with safety and fun.”

Earlier this year, she spoke on New Hampshire Public Radio on how to create safety in schools following the Parkland, Florida, shooting. She also is her senior class president and a member of 18 extracurriculars.

Year after year, thousands of club teens participate in local, state and regional Youth of the Year events, and in the end, six teens (ages 14 through 18), including five regional winners and a national military youth winner, move forward to Washington, D.C., for the National Youth of the Year Gala and Celebration Dinner. It’s there that one teen is named Boys & Girls Club of America’s national teen spokesperson. That teen then serves as not just an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth, but also serves as a voice for youth across the country.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu spoke prior to the dinner and said, “The club is a giant door of opportunity for kids that otherwise don’t have other opportunities.”

He said the Boys & Girls Club provides the youth with structure and a pathway.

Souhegan Valley Club members who participate in Youth of the Year, which is a year-round character and leadership program, demonstrate academic achievement, leadership skills and service to the community, while working toward their futures.

Looking toward those futures, Sununu said, “If you guys are here, you get it. I’m kind of preaching to the choir. So what’s the take away? That some people don’t get it.” He said some don’t appreciate the value of an organization like this, the asset that it is in the community. He said we’ve got to go get them involved.

While not all recognize the value that the Boys & Girls Club has in communities across the country, there were some in attendance who are club alumni. Sununu said the club provides structure and a pathway to our youth.

The Youth finalists were Lily Ayotte, Shelby Houghton, Nicole Jutras and Benjamin Lopez. Community Award Winners were recognized in the following categories: Woman of the Year – Nancy Amato; Business of the Year – Hitchiner Manufacturing Co. Inc.; Volunteer of the Year – Julia Bucklin; Community Hero Award – The Milford Rotary; Lew Dokmo Champion of Youth Award – Porter Dodge and a surprise “President’s Award.”

Now, Houghton will go on to represent her community at the state level in May.

“If my mind was a room, the club has taught me how to walk out of it, how to transcend its walls and think about other people’s struggles. The club has made my life less about myself and more about serving others,” Houghton said.

“There is no substitution for what the Boys & Girls Club can do for the kids of America and if you haven’t seen it tonight I don’t know how you’re going to see it,” she added.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or