Sharing a powerful story
Like all Boys and Girls Club members, Savannah Friesen has a powerful story to tell. Fortunately, as this year’s Elkhart County Youth of the Year winner, she will have ample opportunities to share it. As Youth of the Year, Friesen will represent Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County at the State Youth of the Year Contest hosted at Indianapolis in just a few short weeks. There, she will have a chance to win scholarships for college and compete for a spot in the regional contest.
Her Boys and Girls Club journey
Savannah Friesen joined the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen when she was just nine years old. “When I first started coming to the club, I came because my parents had just divorced,” she explained. “I wasn’t really even sure what that meant yet.”
While Savannah adjusted to the changes in her life, the club quickly became a source of consistency and support. “From the beginning, the Goshen Club became my home away from home,” Friesen said.
Now a sophomore in high school, she remains actively involved at the club. She says it wasn’t just comfort the club provided, but also an opportunity to be herself. “When I walk through the doors at the club, I know that I can be me and not be judged,” she shared. “Unlike sometimes at school, everyone here knows that they can be who they are and that they won’t be thought of differently.”
Discovering her talents
In addition to providing a safe place to be herself, the club has introduced Friesen to small groups and activities that have allowed her to develop as a leader. “I have been president of the Art on the Island program for three years now,” she says. “I’m the oldest member in the program and the younger members look up to me for guidance. Right now, I’m helping a younger girl learn to drawn angles.”
When she’s not leading Art on the Island meetings, Friesen also participates in Keystone Club and SMART Girls. “SMART Girls is a safe place you can go with questions you might not feel comfortable asking anywhere else,” she noted. “We’ve learned about the dangers of texting and how to be safe online. The group helps girls build confidence too.”
Her great future
Club staff know that Friesen has a bright future ahead of her. Over the course of the next two years, they will assist her in planning for college and club programs will continue to connect her with the community and opportunities for career development.
When asked how her life might have been different without the Boys and Girls Club, Friesen’s response is short, but powerful: “My life would have been a lot emptier,” she stated. “This place is such a big part of my life.”