The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis

Reaching for the stars

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis 2020 Youth of the Year winner looks to turn accolades into a career as an aerospace engineer

By Charlotte Beard

Annually, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL) uses its Great Futures Gala, their largest fundraising event for the organization, to announce the Youth of the Year winner. This year the honor went to 16-year-old Danielle Kain, a junior at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS). The gala and 2020 Youth of the Year honoring took place Nov. 8 at Chase Park Plaza.

In addition to Kain claiming the 2020 title, she received the honor of representing the club as a Teen Ambassador, she received the Michael & Wanda DeHaven $5,000 Scholarship, the Missouri State University Youth of the Year $4,000 scholarship, a celebratory dinner courtesy of the Saint Louis Club and a car from Frank Leta Honda.

Youth of the Year is stated to be a signature national youth recognition program that celebrates the recipient’s contributions to their family, school, community and their Boys & Girls Club. Dr. Flint Fowler, BGCSTL President shared that the club has been honoring a youth every year since the organization began.

 “Back then it was called Boy of the Year because it was Boys Club of America and our membership was focused on boys,” stated Fowler. “Ever since 1990 when we became Boys and Girls Club of America each year more and more girls competed for that title. This is (between) the third and fifth year in a row that the winner of the St. Louis title has been a female. Outside of this year, the last two years prior to this year all four of the finalists have been all female. This year three of the four finalist were female.”

This year Kahalia Adams, Herbert Hoover Club member, won second place and was awarded the $2,500 Emerson Scholarship. Alex Mugisha, Roosevelt High School Club member, came in third place winning the $1,000 Be Great: Graduate scholarship and Fatuma Euli, also of Roosevelt, won the fourth place $500 Be Great: Graduate scholarship.

Fowler shared that Frank Leta Honda has participated in awarding the Youth of the Year with a car for three years now. The dealership approached BGCSTL a couple years ago to talk about a way to support the work of the club. 

“The idea of transportation popped up knowing that oftentimes our families are limited because they don’t have proper transportation. If they have a car it’s being shared by multiple family members or there is no car in the family. Given the opportunities that our youth have today, it’s a good thing if they have their own transportation and can get around to some of the activities and experiences. It’s certainly a plus.”

Kain, who has been a club member for eight years has seen several opportunities due to her involvement with the club. Last year she won the BGCA Hank Aaron Scholarship Award which allowed her to purchase STEM materials and equipment to provide sessions for elementary, middle, and high school club members in the summer of 2018. 

Another opportunity for Kain was her past participation this year as a teen panelist at Harris Stowe State University’s Spark the Mind Advancing the Agenda for African Americans in STEM event. At this event she had the opportunity to meet Aprille Ericsson, an aerospace engineer for NASA. Kain herself has plans to become an aerospace engineer upon completion of college. 

“I’ve always been interested in STEM,” Kain said of her career choice. “I put in one of my essays that even before I could do my timetables in math class, I was looking at the stars – pointing out constellations. That’s always been an interest of mine. After I got older, I got into robotics. I’ve been on the robotics team since about fourth grade and that got me into engineering. So, I kind of put my love for space and my love for engineering together and decided I wanted to be an aerospace engineer.” 

Kain is still deciding on a college post high school graduation in 2021 but she shares that she does have an interest in Florida Institute of Technology; the institute has vast STEM-related programs.

Other opportunities and accomplishments include her receiving of the Joan Ellyn Silber Award for Volunteerism and Leadership, and her first place award of an all-inclusive trip to Washington, D.C. in the high school division of the nationwide 2019 STEP Ahead Awards. In addition, she has spoken at events to share how the Boys & Girls Club has impacted her life.

When asked what she enjoys most about the club, Kain shared, “Being able to start my own STEM program—(overseeing) that – was one of the best experiences. The music video program which I have been a part of probably since seventh grade – I’ve gotten to create my own song. I’ve gotten to be a part of that whole process and (learned) what it takes to create a song. I (have) improved my music skill – I play the piano.”

Kain also shared that at the club she is part of Smart Girls—a program that teaches life skills and etiquette. Club members can choose their involvement in various programs based on individual interest.  

“As a junior it’s been hard to go to the club this year on a regular basis. However, I always try to allocate time for the club; there are people there I feel like are my family. So, I try to get there at least once a week. Over the summer, I go all the time.”

Kain shared that her 2020 responsibilities as Teen Ambassador requires that she attends BGCSTL events, visit various BGCSTL sites and participate in public speaking events to “spread a positive message.”

“The foundation is laid for these winners to be extremely successful moving forward,” stated Fowler. “It gives them a chance to have their talents and interests on display at a very early age. Each year there are 14 to 30 young people who (demonstrate they) have the leadership skills and the character to go out and help change communities and make St. Louis and several other communities better places to live. So, it’s my hope that the experience, not just winning it, but having gone through that training and engagement will help young people understand the impact they can have in any endeavor that they pursue.”

CUTLINE: Submitted photo A check is presented to 2020 BGCSTL Youth of the Year Danielle Kain (right) of the Michael and Wanda DeHaven $5,000 Scholarship presented by Abby (left) and Travis Sarich (center), daughter and son-in law of Michael and Wanda DeHaven.