Catching Up with Youth of the Year Alumni
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond has always given young people the opportunity to grow, lead and thrive. A sense of belonging is developed with every new discovery or experience, and every positive relationship formed. When they walk out our doors, ready to face the world, many carry with them the memories and lessons they learned at the Club.
We recently caught up with several Youth of the Year alumni who shared the longstanding impact of the Club.
As two-time Youth of the Year at the Robinson Street Club in the early 1990s, Edward had the opportunity to network, team-build, and travel across the United States, meeting peers who shared the same progressive mindset. Collectively and collaboratively, Edward and his peers used sports, social groups and clubs to promote their shared vision of endorsing leadership while strengthening character, morals and values.
After graduating from high school, Edward went on to Howard University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2000. He earned a Masters in educational administration from Trinity University in 2007 and is now pursuing his doctoral studies.
Edward currently resides in Maryland with his wife and four-year-old son. He works for D.C. Public Schools as the Director of Specialized Instruction, facilitating instructional practices and compliance measures for educators who provide specialized instruction to students with special needs.
Whenever the time and opportunity presents itself, Edward is fully-invested in the Club, both locally and nationally.
“The Club is a positive place to encourage setting goals and making dreams reality. The Club allows its members to feel confident about making the right decisions,” he said. “During a technology-driven era, the Club balances supportive interpersonal peer interaction and builds a foundation of becoming a lifelong learner and positive advocate of the community. Following the Clubs recipe of exploration, citizenship and determination, definitely equips you with the tools to address your future.”
Jabari “JB” Craddock
The Southside Club began playing a role in JB’s life when he was eight or nine years old. Following the “Club Code,” learning how to follow rules and respect others gave him a foundation and a sense of purpose at a young age.
Two memories stick out the most to him – flying to Denver, Colo. for the Keystone Conference in 1992 and being named Youth of the Year in 1993. A trip to the Keystone Conference meant getting on a plane for the first time (little did JB know that in 10 years his military career would take him halfway around the world). However, it was more than simply taking a plane ride or attending a conference, he learned that there were people out there that believed in him and his peers.
“We had support from some Board Members, who helped us with our plane tickets, actually, they donated their airline miles so we could fly out to Denver,” JB recalled. “Today as I look back on it, what I appreciate is that someone cared enough to make sure we got there. He or she felt it was important enough to sacrifice those miles for our benefit. I consider that an unbelievable gift. It may not be something that they’d ever consider to be huge, but for me, it is because they didn’t have to do that.”
After graduating from high school, JB received a scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute and earned his degree in history. He entered active military service in the United States Army and later transitioned into the Army Reserves. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and later deployed to Egypt. In between tours of duty, JB worked towards his law degree, graduating from North Carolina Central in 2012. BGCMR President & CEO Todd McFarlane, who was a Club director when JB was a member, was on-hand to celebrate the occasion.
For the last six-and-a-half years, JB has been living in San Antonio, Texas and working for U.S.A.A. as a property and casualty attorney. He is still a Reservist, serving as a battlefield war planner, specializing in logistics.
For Steve Johnson, he believes that he would not be where he is in life today without the Club. In the face of constant negative influences in the West End in the 1990s, the Club provided a truly safe place, creating an environment that fostered a sense of belonging and stability that allowed many members to grow.
Steve learned a lot about leadership, especially doing the right thing even when no one was looking, and holding yourself accountable for your actions. He credits the staff for helping mold him into the person he is today. He took a leadership role within the Club, working as a junior staff member, before being named the overall Youth of the Year in 1997. He was also named the Virginia State Youth of the Year that same year.
“The process of being nominated as a Youth of the Year contestant and then going on to win both the Richmond city and Virginia state competitions instilled a personal confidence in myself that is still present to this day,” Steve said. “That experience taught me that I’m just as good as anyone else and removed any self-doubt that I had about myself.”
After graduating from high school, Steve enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving for eight years, including two years of active duty and six years as a reserve. He earned a rank of E-4 Corporal before receiving an honorable discharge in 2005.
Steve is currently the U.S. Field Marketing Manager for Applebee’s®. He manages all field-marketing efforts for nearly 1,700 restaurants in the United States, working with each franchise to ensure that all local marketing efforts are consistent with the national strategy. He recently purchased a home in Chantilly, Va. where he lives with his wife and two young sons.
Steve remains close to the Club through the Youth of the Year program. Throughout the years, he’s served as a judge and was the emcee for BGCMR Live! in 2017.
Amira Dove was a two-time Youth of the Year for the Southside Club and named the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond’s Youth of the Year in 2017.
Amira became a Club member when she was 10 years old and often was reluctant to participate in any activities. That all changed when she was encouraged by a staff member to join the Torch Club. Something clicked for Amira and she quickly became more involved in her Club and in her community. She was determined to set a good example for her peers and her three siblings. Amira shined in her leadership roles whether as a Torch Club advisor, a three-time president of Keystone or helping lead an “Our Lives Matter” teen summit.
Currently, Amira is a sophomore at Old Dominion University where she is majoring in mechanical engineering with a focus in aerospace engineering. A Dean’s List student, Amira is also involved in several campus organizations as a member of ODU’s NAACP chapter and as the treasurer of Success Without Limitations, a community service and programming organization.
Amira visits Southside whenever she comes home for breaks and tries to spend as much time with the staff and youth as possible. She always encourages current members to take advantage of the Clubs’ program offerings, like she did, because they may lead to a new interest or hobby and even a possible career choice.
When Sean Miller, current Chief Operating Officer at Boys & Girls of Metro Richmond, met Desiree Wiggins she was a middle schooler struggling with her attitude. But, the more time she spent in the Club and the more she connected with mentors, like Sean, and a staff, which became like “family,” there was a noticeable change in Desiree.
She became involved in the Torch Club, Keystone, and joined a program called “I Am Queen” which focused on helping young women deal with difficult obstacles in life. Through perseverance, focus and drive, Sean watched her mature into the Petersburg Club Youth of the Year in 2018. In her speech at BGCMR Live!, Desiree talked about speaking her future into existence.
“She told me and Marvin Green years ago that she would go to Radford University,” recalled Sean. “She is there now as a social work major!”
Desiree had a great first semester at Radford, earning a spot on the Dean’s List. Her journey is only beginning, but she hopes one day, to use her voice “as a voice for others who do not feel they are heard.”
Have a Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond alumni story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Email us firstname.lastname@example.org