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Lawrence Youth of the Year winner to be selected at ceremony Thursday

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Five candidates will give speeches on Thursday evening in front of family, friends and community members, and one will be selected as the 2023 Lawrence Youth of the Year.

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Each year, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence names a Youth of the Year, recognizing one high school student in the program who embodies “leadership service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles,” according to a news release from the organization. This year’s candidates are Chloe Clossen, Ohene Danso, Arabella Gipp, Audrey Rice and La’Ron Williams.

“I often refer to Youth of the Year as ‘the best thing we do’, and it’s true every year,” CEO Monica Dittmer said in the news release. “These five candidates are exceptional young people, and I can’t wait for the whole world to know it on Thursday.”

Meet the five candidates:

(All information courtesy of Boys & Girls Club)

Chloe Clossen

“Chloe Clossen is a sophomore at Free State High School. The daughter of Jessica Clossen and granddaughter of Jan and Rex Tedrow, she has made a welcome return to BGC to participate in Youth of the Year. Chloe is a basketball and softball superstar at school and an advocate for the mental health of athletes everywhere. She is still working on narrowing down her choice of college from the University of Kansas, the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Cincinnati. She plans to become either a scrub nurse or an Operating Room nurse.”

Ohene Danso

“Ohene Danso is a sophomore at Free State High School. The son of Naomi and Alfred Danso, you may remember him from the 2022 Youth of the Year ceremony. Ohene is the definition of a well-rounded individual; spending his time at the Club playing volleyball, video games or participating in Keystone Club. He plans on majoring in Information Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and hopes to become a professional volleyball player.”

Arabella Gipp

“Arabella Gipp, sophomore at Lawrence High School, was the 2022 Kansas Youth of the Year winner. The daughter of Jessica Gipp, Arabella holds the 2022 Kansas Youth of the Year title. She is involved in no shortage of activities at the Club and at school, including school and Club volleyball, Keystone Club, LHS Debate, NAACP youth council and the Student Mental Health Advocacy Group for Lawrence Public Schools. You can also say hi to her at the front desk of the Center for Great Futures, where she works part-time. She plans on being an activist or politician after attending (Stanford) University and majoring in Political Science.”

Audrey Rice

“Audrey Rice is a senior at Free State High School. The daughter of Kimberly Abbey, she is a Club kid through and through. When she’s not playing basketball with her fellow members at the Center for Great Futures, she works as a Group Leader at our Sunset Hill Elementary site. She is a great role model for our elementary school members! She graduates this December and aspires to be a professional athlete or a travel nurse. She plans to attend the University of Kansas and major in Nursing.”

La’Ron Williams

“La’Ron Williams is a junior at Free State High School. He is the son of Contressa and Jermell Williams and a regular attendee at the Center for Great Futures (CGF). You can find him participating in any number of activities at CGF, from playing volleyball and basketball in the gym to volunteering his time in Keystone Club. At school, he is involved in creative writing and basketball. These skills will serve him well in his collegiate career as he intends to major in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. The only thing La’Ron doesn’t do is dream small – he aspires to become the President of the United States!”

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In addition to high school leaders recognized in the Youth of the Year program, third through eighth grade students participate in a Junior Youth of the Year. Candidates gave speeches on Jan. 12 at the Center for Great Futures, sharing about the impact Boys & Girls Club has had on their lives, according to a post on the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Facebook page. 

The 2023 Junior Youth of the Year winner is Albaraa Almohammadi, who will also share his written speech during the ceremony this week.

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The Youth of the Year judges panel, which includes Julie Dean, Tom Harper, Dr. Dee Ann DeRoin, Larry Englebrick, Keon Stowers, Sgt. Bronson Star and Dr. Krista Whitney, will interview each candidate ahead of the ceremony and score their essays and short answer questions, according to the release. Then during the ceremony, each candidate will share written speeches with the audience, and the judges will announce their chosen winner at the conclusion.

Brian Hanni, who is commonly known as the “voice of the Jayhawks,” will serve as the emcee, according to the news release. Mid America Bank is sponsoring the event.

The winner will go on to represent Lawrence in the Kansas state competition. State winners then advance to regional competitions and regional winners advance to the National Youth of the Year event.

In six out of the last 10 years, Kansas Youth of the Year winners have been from the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, most recently being Gipp when she won in 2022, according to the release.

The 2023 Lawrence Youth of the Year ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. in downtown Lawrence. Doors open at 6 p.m. for refreshments during the candidate reception. Tickets are free but must be reserved ahead of time at this link.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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