Friends, families and well-wishers gathered at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts January 21 for Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri’s Youth of the Year competition, presented by Inter-State Studios.

The annual event is the Club’s premier youth recognition program, which honors outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Club, as well as personal challenges and obstacles overcome.

Benjamin Harris (Dresden Site), Abbygayle Klemme (The CLUB) and Chase Stone (Cole Camp Site) were chosen as the Elementary, Junior and Teen winners respectively by a panel of judges.

“It was a wonderful evening and we’re very proud of all our candidates,” said Director of Operations Tyler Hudson. “It’s always a hard decision for the judges to make every year because all our members are so deserving of the honor.”

Twenty-one candidates were nominated for Youth of the Year and each worked hard during the last few months to gather letters of recommendation, write personal essays and perfect the speech they gave at the event.

“The Youth of the Year is always a prenominal evening,” said Executive Director Gary Beckman. “To hear from our youth, in their own words, about what Boys & Girls Club means to them and the impact its had on the life. Their testimonials of overcoming challenges and hardships, and developing strong inner fortitude is inspiring.”

As the Teen winner, Stone received a $1,000 scholarship to State Fair Community College and a $4,000 scholarship to Missouri State University, thanks to an agreement between the university and BGCWCM. Stone and Klemme will both go on to compete at the Missouri State Youth of the Year competition, to be held in April in Jefferson City.