LAWRENCE, Kan. Prepped, confident and a touch nervous for the next round, Zion Bowlin will represent the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence at the 2017 Kansas Youth of the Year ceremony, Monday, March 6. The Free State High School senior was named the Lawrence Youth of the Year on Jan. 26, advancing him to the state level to be held at Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka.
Bowlin will undergo a full day of activities on Monday, including an interview with the panel of judges, two rounds of presenting his speech, a community service project and a meet-and-greet with several local and state elected officials. The official dinner and program begins at 6 p.m., with the Kansas winner expected to be announced by 8 p.m.
In between FSHS baseball tryouts, homework and college visits, Bowlin has made room for as much practice time as possible. He has spoken to the Lawrence Public Schools board, the Lawrence City Commission, the Lawrence Breakfast Rotary Club and nearly all 15 of the Boys & Girls Club sites in Lawrence. In fact, he and his mentor, Director of Teen Services Amy Hill, have interview and speech practices scheduled all the way through this Sunday.
“I’m feeling a little bit of both,” Bowlin smiled, referring to his confidence and nervousness levels. “I finally have my speech memorized, so I just have to work a little more on my pauses and my gravitas. Doug (Doug Lawrence, YOY speech coach) told me that at Rotary. Hearing from everyone that my speech is good, and that Im well spoken, feels really good. Doug told me that I was one of the best presenters (that he’s seen). So hearing all of that gives me a lot of confidence for State, and it definitely motivates me.”
He will join seven other candidates (two Military YOY, six Traditional YOY in total) as each will represent their respective city and local Boys & Girls Club at the State Youth of the Year level. While the highly decorated football and baseball player has represented his school numerous times, he understands the heightened level that Monday’s event brings.
“It means a lot to me to represent Lawrence,” Bowlin said. “It’s a different feeling than being the captain or the head of a sports team. You have to carry yourself in a different way. It’s not a ‘jock’ way, its more of a ‘good person’ way. You realize that you aren’t only a leader on the field, but you’re a leader in everything you do.”
Lawrence has built quite the reputation for its success in the event. In 2016, Jazmyne McNair became the third Kansas Youth of the Year winner from the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence in the last five years. The title comes with a $5,000 scholarship check and advances the winner to the Southwest Regional Youth of the Year contest in Dallas.
Bowlin embodies academic success and good character and citizenship every day. A strong leader, he serves as a captain for both the baseball and football teams at Free State High School. He was the 2016 team MVP on the FSHS baseball team and an All-State first team honoree. On the football field, Bowlin was named All-League first team and recorded the longest rush in team history.
He started his Boys & Girls Club days at the Deerfield Elementary site. Bowlin is the son of Craig Bowlin and Charlie Woody, and the grandson of Catherine Born. He has received athletic scholarship offers for his baseball talents, and has narrowed his college decision to Baker University or Cloud County Community College. Because of his love of people and caring nature, Bowlin has decided to pursue a career in nursing.