The Times photo by Betsy Reason //
Nate Personette (left) was named 2017-18 Youth of the Year of the Year at the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville, where Teen Center Director Justin Cowan presented his award on Thursday during the Club’s annual Recognition Dinner.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason // Nate Personette (left) was named 2017-18 Youth of the Year of the Year at the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville, where Teen Center Director Justin Cowan presented his award on Thursday during the Club’s annual Recognition Dinner.
Nate Personette was looking dapper in his gray suit and tie. He had a mischievous grin on his face as he sat patiently awaiting announcement of the highest award for youth in the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville.

The 18-year-old with autism, a senior at Noblesville High School, just moments later held tightly to a plaque with his name engraved on it, and he deemed the moment as “great,” just after being named the 2017-18 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville.

He was among dozens of Club kids, kindergarten through Grade 12, to receive more than 150 youth awards Thursday during the Club’s annual Recognition Dinner in the new building at 1700 Conner St.

The son of Phillip and Melissa Personette and a middle child of six siblings, he joined the Club in fifth grade.

“Nate needed some help after school with homework and with some learning sportsmanship, and this was a good place for him to get that help,” his mom said.

Participating in activities at the Boys & Girls Club, she said, has also helped her son with social skills and teamwork. “His behavior has gotten a lot better since he came here. We couldn’t ask for better staff; they’re wonderful.”

The teen, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, can continue attending high school through age 21. “He’s going to keep on going and try to get his diploma,” his mom said.

“When I was younger, I was diagnosed with a mild form of autism,” the teen said. He went on to read an essay, about the club, that he had written, with help from his mom and the Club’s teen director.

“Due to autism, I was easily angered and oftentimes did not know how to express my frustrations, whatever they may be. Also, I did not quite understand social cues which led me to sometimes upset my peers and, then in return, that caused altercations. However, the amazing teen staff helped me get a better control of my anger and taught me how to take turns and lead conversations to have better relationships with my peers,” he said.

Being introduced to the game of Ultimate Frisbee, Personette said, taught him to control his behavior and about the importance of sportsmanship.

The teen is undecided about his future after school. But he is thankful for the Club, of which the executive director is Becky Terry.

The Club is where he “discovered a passion for being a deejay, fixing computers and gaming.”

Personette has socialized and formed friendships with his peers who, in turn, have learned about his many talents and hobbies. “Through the Club, I have been given many opportunities to experience things that I would otherwise not be able to do,” he said.

One of those opportunities was a field trip with the staff to the state of Georgia to visit the Boys & Girls Club of America headquarters, and to visit the historical areas of New Orleans.

He’s also learned the value of volunteer work, having participated in the Club’s Stuff Da Bus, Basketball Spectacular, cooking class, golf outings and other service projects.

The Youth of the Year is a Boys & Girls Club of America program, which recognizes teens for outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as personal challenges and obstacles overcome. The Club annually awards a teen member who strives to develop qualities of sound character, leadership and a willingness to serve, qualifies that young people need to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.

So did anyone encourage Personette to dress up and wear his suit on this special night?

“Justin helped him. Justin is a great guy. He is an awesome teen center director,” his mom said of Justin Cowan, who presented the award and spoke on the teen’s behalf.

Cowan shared kind words about the teenager. “As a young member and teen, he has participated in just about every program, special event and sport that the Club has offered,” Cowan said. These groups include Boys to Men, Keystone Club, Voice, Digital Arts and an etiquette class. All of these clubs helped improve the teen’s strengths and overcome weaknesses.

“Through these clubs, our Youth of the Year has shown selflessness, compassion, integrity, ownership and a love for all things technology,” Cowan said.

“Our Youth of the Year is the prime example of what we expect from our Club members. He represents the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville with the same amount of integrity he has displayed throughout his many years with us.”

At the end of Personette’s acceptance speech, the teen smile and said. “The Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville has taught me many valuable life lessons that I will never forget. My great future started here.”

- Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. For a complete list of award winners, visit www.thetimes24-7.com.