VUHS senior makes his mark as Boys and Girls Club Youth of the year

VERGENNES — After being selected in February from among several other outstanding local teens for the honor of being the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vergennes Youth of the Year, Vergennes resident Jesse Whitney on April 25 competed in Montpelier against other statewide club honorees for the honor of Vermont Youth of the year.
Although Whitney lost out to Burlington Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Kabura Onesime for the state honor, Vergennes club officials said Whitney, an 18-year-old Vergennes Union High School senior, richly deserved his local honor.
Club executive director Mike Reiderer, teen program director Billy Waller and the local club’s Youth of the Year judges described Whitney as “a true example of an extraordinary young man” who should be “recognized by Boys & Girls Clubs of America for his sound character, leadership skills and willingness to give back to the community.”
According to the club, being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. As the national organization’s premier youth recognition program, Youth of the Year recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as taking notice of youth’s abilities to overcome personal challenges and obstacles.
Youth of the Year encourages club members to reach their full potential by achieving academic success, leading healthy lifestyles and contributing to their communities. Youth of the Year honorees are shining examples and living proof that great futures start at Boys & Girls Clubs, according to club literature.
Reiderer said Whitney certainly fits that profile.
“Jesse has shown tremendous growth in the five years that he has been a club member,” Reiderer said. “He has learned a lot of self-control, and has developed close relationships with peers as well as adults at the club.”
A club press release provided background on Whitney, stating that he and his mother moved to Vergennes from Lamoille County in part because he was having a hard time with being bullied and getting into fights, and she thought a fresh start in a new community would do him a lot of good. Whitney’s introduction to the Boys & Girls Club was at a game room tournament event and he has been a club regular ever since.
Participating in the club after-school program provided Whitney with a positive environment where he could be himself, make new friends and develop confidence, according to the press release.
Although he loves sports, Jesse was always afraid to go out for school teams, until he developed the confidence to take that risk and make an effort to try out. Club leaders in the press release said he credits his club membership with helping him develop that confidence, and in the past two years he was a member of the VUHS championship boys’ basketball team.
At the club, they said Jesse has grown into a true leader, helping staff with projects, welcoming new members and contributing to the constructive atmosphere by encouraging other members to use appropriate “Club behavior,” a big development from his early days at the club.
As Jesse put it in the press release, “I used to have a bad temper at times, but I’ve learned to re-direct my anger and talk about what is bothering me. The club staff didn’t just kick me out … They encouraged me to talk about my problems. As I got older it helped me to see other people’s point of view.”
Jesse will graduate from VUHS this year, completing a course of study that includes attendance at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, where he got a taste for culinary arts. He hopes to pursue a career in this field with an ultimate goal of owning an Italian restaurant.
When Onesime was named the Vermont Youth of the Year in a ceremony at the Statehouse, Reiderer said Whitney’s sportsmanship and gregarious nature were on full display: Not only did Whitney humbly believe that Onesime was a stronger candidate, he congratulated him and left the event with a wonderful sense of his own accomplishment.

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