The Dorchester Boys & Girls Club staff members agree that there’s something special about Jamil Boykin, Kate McGrath, and Anthony Curioso, a trio of 17-year-old veterans of the program, and they’ve shown that appreciation by selecting Boykin as the club’s Youth of the Year, McGrath as Girl of the Year, and Curioso as Boy of the Year.
Each year, Boys & Girls Clubs around the country choose exceptional teenagers to recognize as chapter Youth, Girls, and Boys of the Year. The winning Youth of the Year from the individual clubs moves on to compete in a statewide competition with the possibility of advancing to the regional and national Youth of the Year contests.
According to Mike Joyce, senior vice president of operations at Dorchester Boys & Girls Club, choosing a Youth, Girl, and Boy of the Year from among the 4,000 children the chapter serves is always tough.
“To be selected even as a finalist requires the approval of the whole program staff,” Joyce said. “To try and whittle that finalist group down to a select Girl of the Year, Boy of the Year, and Youth of the Year is difficult. The kids have to do an essay, they have to get a letter of recommendation from one of the staff, and they have to be interviewed by a panel of judges. For us, it’s really the top award that you could get at the club.”
This year’s winners took a time out to reflect fondly on their time with the Dorchester facility.
“My experiences have mainly been learning and developing experiences,” said Boykin. “Meeting new people helped me open up as a shy person. It helped me get other people out of their shells as they came to the club. And it taught me how be an actual man in the world and how to speak my mind in a way that’s respectful. It’s taught me how to ‘be someone.’”
For her part, McGrath said, “The club has been a huge part of my development as a person. It was here that I had my first experiences with teamwork and commitment and all the things that make me the woman I am today. The club has always been a place to go home and a place where I know my peers and my mentors will always have my back.”
Next year, she plans to attend nursing school at Regis College in Weston, a decision she attributes in large part to her experiences at the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club.
“Honestly,” she said, “It was the club that made me realize that I wanted to go into a profession of helping other people.”
She and Boykin lead the club’s Keystone Club, which is meant to foster community service among members. McGrath says her work in that regard has “really opened my eyes to the opportunities in the world to help other people.”
As to the Boy of the Year, he feels “incredibly honored” by the decision. “I was not expecting this at all,” said Curioso, but I have nothing but extreme gratitude for the people who made the decision.
“I’ve been involved with a lot of the club’s programming over the last eight years or so, and they always will find some way to make sure that anyone can participate in their programs, regardless of whatever challenges they may face.”
Joyce is especially proud to recognize Boykin and McGrath’s many years spent with the club as they prepare to graduate from high school.
“Jamil being a senior, Kate being a senior, they’re both leaving the club, so to get the highest honor as they graduate out of the program is kind of a nice way to recognize all their achievements,” he said.