Kalea Sciaccotta, 13, of Olympia, has been named Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.
The Jefferson Middle School eighth-grader will go on to compete next month for the title of Washington Youth of the Year, and as much as $5,000 in scholarships.
“I was a little shocked,” Sciaccotta said about the Thurston County award that was presented Jan. 29 at South Puget Sound Community College. “I wasn’t expecting it.”
The award is the highest honor for the organization, and is designed to recognize “youth who have overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments,” according to a news release from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County.
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“Kalea spoke about her life’s challenges in a very authentic way,” contest judge Rachel Martini with Olympia Federal Savings told The Olympian. “Her strength and dedication to not only better her situation but to go beyond to helping others is the mark of a community leader.”
Sciaccotta began attending the Olympia Boys & Girls Club in 2011. She said she likes going there to hang out with her friends and help younger students with their homework.
“I would describe Kalea as independent,” said Kym Greene, director of the Olympia club. “She does not care what others think of her as long as she is doing what she feels is the right thing to do.”
Kalea lives with her mother, stepfather and four siblings, and visits her father on the weekends. She said the club helped her overcome struggles she’s experienced in the past.
“I became very depressed in sixth and seventh grades, and they helped me get through that and fight that,” she said.
Kalea said she enjoyed the local Youth of the Year process, which included meeting teens from three other clubs, speeches and participation in an interview panel.
“I think the people I met through the competition helped me a lot, and I became really close with my competitors, and I think that’s important,” she said.
As part of a partnership between SPSCC and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, each of the local runners-up received a $1,500 scholarship, and Sciaccotta received a two-year tuition waiver from the Olympia-based college.
“I think that’s a really cool opportunity, and I’m very thankful for that,” she said.