Jessica Berwick considers the Olympia Boys & Girls Club her home and its staff members her family.
“They’re my support system whenever I need anything,” she said.
Berwick, 17, of Olympia, was recently chosen as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County’s Youth of the Year.
The Capital High School junior will compete against other Boys & Girls Club members from across the state next week for the Washington Youth of the Year title, a $1,000 scholarship and the chance to advance to the Pacific Region Youth of the Year competition.
Being named Youth of the Year is the organization’s biggest honor, according to Mike Babauta, director of the Olympia Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s kind of a Boys & Girls club all-star,” he said.
Berwick said she’s never known her mother and was struggling emotionally during those middle school years.
She joined the club in 2009 and credits its staff members for teaching her to deal with anger, communicate with other people and set goals.
“They always had some type of belief in me,” Berwick said. “They’re like, ‘We’ll help you make your dreams come true.’”
She’s worked her way up in the club and is now a teen staff member.
During the state competition, which will be in Seattle, Berwick and other finalists will each give a three-minute speech on what the Boys & Girls Club means to them and go through interviews.
Babauta believes Berwick will be a strong contender and described her as “one of those wise-beyond-her-years type of teens.”
Berwick said she’s honored to represent Thurston County in the process. “Everybody says state is awesome no matter if you win because you meet so many important people,” she said.
After high school, Berwick hopes to attend South Puget Sound Community College and the University of Washington Tacoma. She wants to study psychology and music education.