Club again honors city teen

VERGENNES — The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes last month for the second straight time chose reigning Vermont Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Kaitlin Leroux-Eastman as the local organization’s Youth of the Year.
On April 19 in Montpelier, Leroux-Eastman, a 16-year-old Vergennes Union High School junior with an extensive résumé of service to the youth club and the community, will represent the local organization in the state competition.
City club executive director Mike Reiderer said a rules change by the parent Boys & Girls Club organization allowed the organization to nominate Leroux-Eastman again. Previously, once a youth won a state title he or she was no longer eligible to compete again.
But the national organization changed the criteria to allow a youth to compete again as long as he or she did not win a regional title. Leroux-Eastman did well at last summer’s regional event in New York City, Reiderer said, but did not prevail in a strong field that included winners from larger states from throughout the Northeast.
History may be on Leroux-Eastman’s side in Montpelier as she seeks a repeat title: Vergennes club members have excelled in the state competition, winning six times since 2003. Contestants are judged on community service, contributions to their club, poise and speaking ability.
Club officials believe Leroux-Eastman is well qualified for a second-straight title after topping 100 hours of community service in the past 12 months, plus reviving the club’s “Homework Center” for members who need a helping hand with their studies.
Club teen coordinator Billy Waller said Leroux-Eastman essentially operates the program.
“She runs it,” Waller said. “She sits down and does the homework with the kids.”
Other community service includes a firm commitment to anti-substance abuse efforts in Addison Northwest Supervisory Union schools and the community, volunteer work at the Bixby Library, and what club officials call tireless organizing efforts for events held at the club or at St. Peter’s Church. They also cite her constant willingness to walk to the club with younger or special-needs members.
Leroux-Eastman’s devotion to drug-and-alcohol abuse work comes in part from her background. She acknowledges her biological parents’ struggles with drugs and the law; she lives with her aunt in Vergennes.
In an earlier interview with the Independent, she described her motivation.
“That’s why I want to be part of those groups. I’ve seen it first-hand, and I’ve experienced it,” Leroux-Eastman said. “If we can reach out to other teens, maybe we can stop it, or at least slow down a process that can potentially affect their whole lives and the lives of others, too.”
Waller said club officials can always rely on her. 
“Kaitlin has shown that she can be counted on to assist staff in daily activities as well as special events,” he said.
One example of her poise can be seen by the fact Leroux-Eastman, who studies music at VUHS and has sung the national anthem at sporting events, has served as a conductor of an adult choir at St. Peter’s Church.
One thing has changed in the past 12 months. Leroux-Eastman had planned to become a teacher, but now plans on studying Criminal Justice with an eye on becoming either a social worker or a police officer. Waller said that decision is also motivated by her family background and a desire to help out other youths.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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