‘Outstanding character:’ Boys & Girls Club names Youth of Year

AMHERST- Alana Dail, a Milford High School senior and honor role student, is the Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley’s 2019 Youth of the Year.

Alana told her story to club staff and supporters who gathered Wednesday night, March 20, for the annual awards dinner at LaBelle Winery. The club, she said, helped her deal with “unforgiving and judgmental social circles at school” and tragedies among family and friends.

“I know hundreds of kids with stories like mine,” said Alana, a club members since she was 7 years old. With the help of the club, she learned to lead a healthy and normal life and develop “a stony iron will.”

The other Youth of the Year finalists were Sushrut Khadka and Jacob Tafe.

Jacob, an eight-year member, said the club was like “a massive home” where someone is always there to welcome you and talk with you and where he gained strength to combat depression and anxiety. “I never want to see other” young people experience that, he said.

Sushrut, a first generation immigrant from Nepal who came here when he was a young boy, said the club helped him learn English, ease his homesickness and become a goal-directed person. Now part of the club staff, the Bishop Guerton High School student plans to study anesthesiology.

Alana receives a $1,000 scholarship and will represent the club in a state Boys and Girls Club competition.

Youth of the Year is awarded to one teen each year who displays outstanding character and leadership skills, excels academically and gives back to the community.

Other awards:

The Business of the Year is Jay Steel, owned and operated by Allise de Smet and John Siemienowicz. Club President Michael Goodwin said the company has devoted time and resources to the club for most of its history, and after a devastating flood in 2007 that closed the club, “Allise took charge and called friends and got it operating again.”

State Rep. Joelle Martin (D-Milford) is the club’s Woman of the Year, for her “tireless advocacy for the community” and for children with special needs.

State Rep. Joelle Martin (D-Milford) is the club’s Woman of the Year, for her “tireless advocacy for the community” and for children with special needs.

Monica Gallant, the club’s director of prevention services, received the President’s Award. Gallant started CAST (Community Action for Safe Teens) as well as the YES team, to help local young people affected by addiction. Last year she helped the club obtain a $625,000 federal grant to help CAST continue its work.

Melissa Sidilau is Volunteer of the Year. Gallant called her “my right-hand person,” helping with the child resiliancy retreat and other club activities.

Paul Sontag, pastor of the Light of the World Church, won the Community Hero Award. Goodwin listed all the ways Sontag has benefited local youth: starting a annual multi-church outreach event, the free Family Fun Day, a youth basketball league and sharing news about the Boys and Girls Club with other churchs in the area.

Alan Woolfson, of Milford, won the Lew Dokmo Champion of Youth Award, for his “energy, enthusiasm and humor.” He is traveling with his family and couldn’t attend the dinner.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.