Eastern Wake News

Zebulon Boys & Girls Club member named Wake County Youth of the Year

Zebulon Boys & Girls Club staff member Chris Williams sits surrounded by young club members as a recreation session gets underway in the gym Friday afternoon.
Zebulon Boys & Girls Club staff member Chris Williams sits surrounded by young club members as a recreation session gets underway in the gym Friday afternoon. amoody@newsobserver.com

Chris Williams will tell you he’s all for setting a good example for the young members at the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club.

That’s why it meant so much to him to win the Wake County Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year competition Feb. 17 in Raleigh. By ousting the winners from the six other local clubs, he earned the right to represent the Wake County organization in a statewide competition set for March 28 in High Point.

“It means a lot, because my whole thing is I want to show the kids that if you work hard you can do something productive in life and succeed in life,” Williams said. “I want it to mean more for the kids than it means for me.”

In the competition, judges consider written portfolios prepared by the entrants and then administer interviews to determine the winner. The top recognition program for club members, the Youth of the Year competition seeks out the most outstanding youth based on criteria like academics, club participation, moral character, future goals and speaking and writing ability.

“It’s kind of like the pinnacle of Boys & Girls Club members going against the best from other clubs and then other organizations,” said Karl Thoma, director of the Zebulon club. “(Williams) is an outstanding young man and his compassion toward others and the community and service to the Boys & Girls Club, how much it means to him, are probably his best qualities.”

Williams, an 18-year-old senior at East Wake High School, has been a member of the local club since 2001 and has been a staff member for the past seven months.

He summed up his written portion of the competition as a snapshot of the true life of a teenager.

“I feel like a lot people who are well known in society want to make a teenager’s life seem so picture perfect, but it’s not,” Williams said. “Teenagers go through a lot of stuff, too, so my package shows that you can go through a lot in life and still be successful.

“All it takes is hard work and dedication. It’s up to you how you want to receive that to get where you want to go in life.”

Getting to where he is

Williams had to make it past the club round on Feb. 17 to advance to the ensuing organizational round. He said he didn’t think he was going to win at either level.

“I didn’t think I was going to win the first one because my competitor, Jasmine Porter, goes (to the Zebulon club) also and she’s really tough,” he said. “I felt like she was something to worry about – she had me sweating.

“I didn’t think I was going to win the second one, either, because the organization had a lot of competitors that brought a lot to the table. When they called my name, it was like, ‘Wow.’ ”

If Williams can win at the state level, he’ll take home a $1,000 scholarship and chance to compete at the regional level. Winners of the five regional competitions also earn $10,000 scholarships and a ticket to the national competition, where they can win up to an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding. The President of the United States installs the National Youth of the Year.

Thoma said Williams is the full package and should turn heads deep into the competition.

“He’s going to represent us at the state level – at least,” Thoma said.

Williams plans to attend Winston-Salem State University to major in social work, with a goal of being a therapist.