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Youth of Year speech extols club’s value

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Life is like a flowing highway. When you are born your parents teach you how to drive the car, how to be safe, and most importantly how to follow the rules of the road. They teach you right from wrong, and sooner or later, let you decide where you go from there. When you’re finally on your own, there are going to be times where you take the wrong exit and feel like all hope is lost, but with the guidance of others and the courage buried deep inside waiting to break free you can get back on the path. There are going to be obstacles, temptations, adversities, and extreme amounts of road rage, but with the mentoring and guidance from others, and your own judgment of right and wrong, you will have a successful journey.
This is what the club means to me. On my highway, it was an exit I took not knowing the dangers or rewards that would lie ahead. I started out as a volunteer coming to my club thinking I was there to help them, but ironically they were there to help me.
I thought I had everything put together, but when I finally woke up from my denial, the club showed me I was a very angry, depressed, and unbelievably stressed out adolescent. I didn’t enjoy life. I strolled along trying to get through life, living day by day, doing what I was told to the best of my ability, instead of living every moment like it was my last. The club brought this realization to me.
Not only do they have some of the greatest mentors, but they have some of the greatest listeners. I felt safe and open going to talk to my coworkers about whatever I wanted. If I needed help or just to talk to someone they were there for me. When I did a great job they were there to give me the praise I needed to feel important and special about myself. When I did something wrong they were there to critique me in a way that made me feel like I could do better the next time.
I broke out of my protective shell and started to become a more outgoing person. I took this and the lessons I learned and in turn tried to do the same for the other children in the club rotating from a mentored to a mentor. I saw children at the club and recognized the exact problems I had. Getting angry over something small, sitting alone away from other kids because they’re too shy to talk to someone first, or sitting alone away from other kids because they fear rejection and don’t feel good enough to have friends. And in truth, all they needed, like I needed, was someone to be there for them and just have someone to talk to. When my father was diagnosed with colon cancer I couldn’t resort to my old ways, so I stepped up as a leader and helped my family get through this tragic event. He’s now fine and we’re happier than ever. I’m still not perfect, and I probably never will be. But if the club has taught me anything it is this: enjoy life for every second you have it, because someone else has it worse than you. Because of Devers Middle School and Teen Center I have realized that great futures start here.
Thank you for your time, and your consideration for this great honor.
Editor’s note: Richard Thackrey’s award-winning speech.