BRATTLEBORO >> A young woman emerged from struggles early on to become a very active member of the community.
"Growing up was not that easy for me. But with the club by my side, it has made my life much better," said Jordan Baldwin-Page, 16, a junior Brattleboro Union High School, before knowing she would be this year's Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro Youth of the Year and winning a $500 scholarship.
Baldwin-Page is now in the running for a $1,000 scholarship. She will be competing against other Boys & Girls Club members for the Vermont Youth of the Year title. If she wins, she will go on to New York City. There, she could receive the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year and a $10,000 scholarship could be hers.
Five regional winners will then have the chance to win the Boys & Girls Club of America's National Youth of the Year. That comes with a $15,000 scholarship and a meeting with President Barack Obama during an Oval Office ceremony.
A panel of five local judges — Michael Cersosimo, Christopher Chapman, Ann Golob, Joe Madison and Shawn McMillan — picked Baldwin-Page for the award.
"Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive," a press release stated. "The title recognizes outstanding high achievement in the areas of academic excellence, healthy lifestyles, leadership, character and service as well as obstacles overcome."
Baldwin-Page is president of the club's teen leadership club known as Keystone and serves as junior staff at the club. She sings with the A Capella group Spiralia, which performed at Wednesday's award ceremony at the River Garden. And she's thinking about studying journalism in college.
The club was Baldwin-Page's second home since she was 6 years old, she said, but in sixth grade she began to feel everything was "going downhill." Her sister was hospitalized for two weeks with a ruptured appendix and her parents soon divorced.
Having a good connection with both parents, Baldwin-Page said she had difficulties dealing with the situation. She was spending half the time at her mother's house and half the time at her father's. Then in seventh grade came depression.
"Because of all the stress I was under with my family, school, sports and more, I resorted to self harm," said Baldwin-Page, who soon entered therapy and started taking medication. "I only did what I absolutely had to."
Eventually, she stopped taking the pills and quit therapy.
"This was a very long battle for me that I'm still going through today. But without the support, love and guidance that I got from the Boys & Girls Club, I would not be the same person I am today," she said. "The club really steered me towards a positive place and a place where I could be myself and feel loved and supported."
Baldwin-Page thanked all the staff and her mother for always being there.
"I love you guys," she said.
Kristopher Carroll and Derrick Harnish were also candidates for the award.
Carroll, 14, is a three-sport athlete who would "play more if there were more seasons available to him," said Peter "Fish" Case, who was MC at the ceremony. Carroll is a freshman at BUHS and serves on Keystone.
"When I was younger member, I remember how well the older counselors treated me," said Carroll. "I try to treat the younger kids the way I was treated."
Without the club, Carroll imagines he wouldn't have the same amount of friends he has now or the same experiences. He said the club keeps him out of trouble and allows him to go on plenty of trips. He finds himself asking what the club's staff and members might think if he makes a certain decision.
"I value being part of the club," he said.
Harnish, 15, is a sophomore at BUHS and he's involved in Keystone too. He performs in the New England Youth Theater, sings in an A Capella group and participates in community service projects with his church group. He received the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro's Presidential Volunteer Award on Wednesday night.
"The Boys & Girls Club," he said. "What a place! Ever since I was 10 years old, the club has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. And without it, I'd be extraordinarily lost."
Standing at the podium, Harnish said he was grateful for the club after seeing friends going "down the path of drugs or alcohol."
A large round of applause followed the ceremony for the club's staff, board of directors and its members.
"I've always seen the impact that the club has had on young boys and girls, and the work that this staff does to keep these kids focused, doing what they do, giving them a place to eat, to be safe," said Case. "The board keeps that mission going forward."
Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro Executive Director Beth Baldwin said there are over 1,200 members "who strive to do the right thing every day and the club is open six days a week. Meals are served every night it is open, totalling over 7,000 annually.
"The club is more than just a place for kids to hang out," she said. "While youth are at the club, they're learning how to interact with others, share, place nice, give back to the community, job skills, advocate for themselves and others, all while having fun and feeling supported by the adults that do care."