TOPEKA, Kan. – Her infamous smile lit up the Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy the instant her name was read. Jazmyne McNair extended her Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence win streak, earning 2016 Kansas Youth of the Year honors on Tuesday evening.
A junior at Lawrence High School, McNair wowed the judges’ panel in her Lawrence Youth of the Year debut on Jan. 14. Tuesday night at the state capital was no different. A panel of five judges evaluated each candidate based on an intense, timed interview process, a series of essays submitted before the event and three speech presentations throughout the day. McNair kept her cool and delivered her story from the heart, which ultimately led to the prestigious honor. The title comes with a $5,000 scholarship check and advances her to the next level of competition. She will now represent the state of Kansas in the Southwest Regional Youth of the Year contest June 20 in Dallas.
“I was shocked, honestly, all of the stories from all of the candidates were very emotional,” McNair said. “They all provided such a testament to what the Boys & Girls Club is capable of helping people with – but I was definitely surprised to hear my name. I’m so proud of everyone here. I only knew everyone here for a few short hours, but I was moved by them. It’s just really outstanding.”
In true Jazmyne form, the dedicated student spent the night prior to the event auditioning for LHS Choral Department’s ‘Showtime’ before staying the night in Topeka with her mom, Melissa Johnson, to get her rest for the long day ahead. All nine candidates (three Military YOY, six Traditional YOY) began their State YOY journey before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, prepping for speeches and interviews with the judges. From there, they presented their speeches at a luncheon, volunteered with Pine Ridge Prep Academy pre-K students for a KidzLit project and glammed up for the evening’s finale.
Every candidate shared stories of overcoming unbelievable odds and adversity thanks to the help of the various Clubs across Kansas. When Peyton Peterson of the Boys & Girls Club of Manhattan was announced as the runner-up, the crowd held their breath in anticipation. Shouts from McNair’s family, supporters, mentors, the Lawrence Board of Directors rang out in excitement. She now becomes the third Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence winner to represent Kansas at the regional level in the last five years.
“To hear ‘Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Jazmyne McNair…’ I’m not surprised, but it’s a competition and you never know,” Executive Director Colby Wilson said. “Our board and our staff is very committed to the Youth of the Year program. I’m just proud to be a part of it. Jazmyne has worked really hard and we are really proud of her. She embodies everything that the Boys & Girls Club is about. The difference is how much she has a vision of where she wants to go and what she wants to do in this world.”
McNair was introduced by Kansas Senator Marci Francisco and when she took her turn at the podium Tuesday evening, she delivered a speech even more poignant than her winning words at the Lawrence event. Her speech honored her hard-working mother who had to split her time between her own kids and her students. As an aspiring teacher herself, McNair spoke highly of how the staff at the Boys & Girls Club encouraged her and set the example of what a positive role model looks like.
“The Boys & Girls Club staff reminded me that what kids have to say is important,” McNair said in her speech. “Whether the activity we were doing at the Club was educational or just for fun, the staff were being positive examples of how to treat others.”
Jon Sefel emceed the dinner presentation, which celebrated not only months of hard work by the candidates and their mentors – but also life-long relationships that kids develop with the Boys & Girls Club. A national event, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America began the Youth of the Year program in 1947. Those who earn the Youth of the Year title embody the values of leadership service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. Locally, candidates exemplify the powerful impact that the Boys & Girls Club has on kids in the state of Kansas.
McNair embodies academic success and good character and citizenship every day. She has been a member of the LHS orchestra for three years, the choir for three years, the forensic team for three years and has been part of more than 10 concerts and plays. Since seventh grade, McNair has volunteered as a Sunday school teacher for all age levels at her church. Though she is still a year away from college, McNair has aspirations of majoring in music therapy or music education at Kansas State University.