I think it's a pretty big deal to earn the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville's Youth of the Year recognition.
So allow me to share more about this year's winner, Olivia Morales.
The 11-year-member, a Noblesville High School junior, is considered an exemplary ambassador for the club's youth "as a strong voice for our community's young people."
Olivia, 17, was selected based on her years of service and participation in the Club, her leadership skills and her dedication to the mission of the Club.
Nathan Helm, the Club's director of development, describes her as "hard working and compassionate."
He said, "Olivia is well deserving of her Youth of the Year nomination this year. Not only does she set an outstanding example for our members at the Club, but she leads by example in the community and at NHS."
Olivia will compete Thursday and Friday at the State Youth of the Year competition in Indianapolis. The Youth of the Year competition is an investment of time, effort and heart on the part of the youth. Winners represent their Club. They tell their story and what they stand for.
Olivia grew up in the Club and has been involved with the Club in so many ways.
While she currently works in the Club's gym and games room, she has participated in almost every program and group that the club offers. She played Club basketball since she was in kindergarten and now plays on the NHS Millers' girls varsity basketball team. (Speaking of basketball, the Club's Basketball Spectacular took place over the weekend at Noblesville High School, which graciously allowed the club to use its three gymnasiums. The Times will showcase winners in an upcoming edition.)
"Growing up at the Boys & Girls Club has taught me a lot of things," Olivia said. "It has taught me how to be helpful, patient and a great leader. The Club has guided me in so many ways that are unexplainable."
Olivia said that the Club staff has guided her "to make the right decisions" and taught her "how to handle life challenges."
Olivia is the daughter of Abigail Rinehart and Matt Morale. Olivia, who is expected to graduate from NHS in 2018, plans to attend Ball State University and study elementary education and hopes to work with at-risk youth.
Rinehart, the Club's unit director, said her daughter's "vision for youth" is to be "empowered" by goals and dreams and not to let circumstances define them.
Olivia's best Club memory? "Too many memories to just pick one, but I can say that Camp Crosser, the Boys & Girls Club Basketball Program and field trips are among the best memories I have. Other great memories were made playing Capture the Flag and hide-and-go-seek when I was a young Club Kid."
Olivia said, "The club is more than just a place to go. It is my home. What makes a place a home is family, and I couldn't ask for a better family than the Club has given me. It has always been the one place that is stable, has accepted me and given me a sense of belonging. The Club is a place where I can go to escape everyone else's realities and one in which I can create my own."