After months of preparation, practice, and determination, local sophomore Khaai Wilson has been named the 2023 Youth of the Year representative for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas (BGCSCK).

Youth of the Year is the premier recognition program for more than 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country and highlights the relationships members develop with the Club from as early as kindergarten through high school – and beyond. In order to participate in the Youth of the Year program, high school students must embody the values of leadership service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. These four candidates are shining examples of the powerful positive impact the Boys & Girls Clubs has on its members.

The winner was selected by a panel of judges:  Kyle Ellison, Executive Director for Heroes Academy; LaTonia Kennedy, Principal at Gordon Parks Academy; and Lindsi Hoy, AVP, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Emprise Bank.  The evaluation process included a “get to know you” session with the candidates, followed by individual interviews and scoring the candidates three essays and short answer questions. 

To complete the judging, four candidates took the stage at Scotch & Sirloin at the 2023 Youth of the Year Luncheon on Wed., Jan.25. The top two candidates Wilson and Ja’Miyah “Rosie” presented their speeches in front of a supportive crowd of friends, family and community members.

Rosie spoke about the importance of reducing the stigmas of mental health, and the impact her personal mental health has taken in life. Rosie discussed the perfect timing that BGCSCK came into her life in order to help her build confidence and gain friends and mentors. Now after six years attending the Club, Rosie views the Club as a supportive and safe space.

Wilson presented his personal story of foster care, identity, and adoption which ultimately got him connected to the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas. During his time at the Club, he has gained meaningful mentors and valuable friendships that have helped him through difficult times to truly find himself.

Wilson completed his speech by saying, “Thanks to the Boys & Girls Club, I not only know who I am, but why I wake up every day. I am Khaai Wilson, proudly adopted, varsity athlete, straight A student, and a rep of the Wichita Heights High School Avid, class of 2025. I want to be a role model for my generation. I want to make my family and friends proud. I am confident I can be a leader of this generation because I have learned the key to success- that is to be yourself, because no one else is a better version of you, than you are.”

Khaai will now go on to represent the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas in the state competition on March 20th in Topeka. During this time, he will also meet with legislators and senators to talk about the Club’s impact and importance. State winners will then advance to regional competitions, and regional winners advance to the National Youth of the Year event.

The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. For more information on the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas, visit www.bgcsck.org.