BGCNJ Youth of Year Finalists Biographies

2017-18 NJ State and Military Youth of the Year Winners

On June 6th, 300 guests gathered at Montclair State University for the 2017- 18 New Jersey State Youth of the Year Celebration. The Youth of the Year Program recognizes the most exceptional Boys & Girls Club teen members, who embody the values of leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. Laurie Hernandez, 2016 Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist and “Dancing with the Stars” Champion served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. The 17 honored youth received $60,000 in scholarships and the evening culminated with the announcement of the 2017 – 18 NJ State and Military Youth of the Year winners.

2017 – 18 New Jersey State Youth of the Year

Carlos P.  – Boys & Girls Club of Clifton

Carlos is a senior at Clifton High School and is in the top two percent of his class.  He is the president of the Clifton Student Union and student representative of the Clifton Board of Education.  He is also captain of the varsity track & field team.  Carlos has been a Club member for six years and is the first male to volunteer at the Club’s early childhood department.  In 2016, he participated in the Bank of America Student Leaders program as an intern at the Club.  Carlos is also the first Latino to be elected governor of the American Legion Jersey Boys State.  His community service initiatives include volunteering at soup kitchens and high school open houses.  He will attend Dartmouth College in the fall to study government and public policy.

Career Aspiration: Supreme Court Justice

2017-18 New Jersey Military Youth of the Year

Kuanyah N. – Fort Dix Youth Center

Kuanyah is a freshman at Northern Burlington Regional High School where she has received the Most Likely to Succeed Award, Perfect Attendance Award and has been recognized on the honor roll. She is involved in the social club, basketball and track & field. Kuanyah has been a Club member for three years and is the vice president of the Keystone Club. Kuanyah is also a member of Career Launch, diplomas2Degrees, Money Matters among many other Club programs. Kuanyah’s community service initiatives include participating in MLK Day of Service and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Installation Children’s Christmas Party. She hopes to attend Stanford University or Spellman College to study journalism.

Career Aspiration: News Commentator

We would like to thank our sponsors:

New Jersey Education Association, Comcast, Robert Half, Wakefern Food Corporation, Novartis Pharmaceutical Company, ADP Foundation, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, PNC, PSEG, Rosica Communications, Sobel Family Foundation, Sudler Foundation, Garden State Community Bank, Investors Bank, Merck, NBA, NY Football Giants, TD Bank, Wellsfargo and Zoetis


Abigail Jimenez – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Camden County

Abigal Jimenez0061Abigail is a senior at Camden County Technical Schools – Pennsauken Campus in the Banking and Finance Career program.   She is a member of the National Technical Honor Society, Treasurer of the Interact Committee, Future Business Leader and is a Rutgers Future Scholar participant.   Abigail has volunteered for various organizations including the Food Bank and Children’s Home Society.

Career Goal: Accountant


Ade’Kamil Kelly – Age 17 Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark

Ade Kamil Kelly0061Ade’Kamil is a junior at East Orange Campus High School and works hard to be a successful student. He is the Keystone Club President and has participated in the AIDS Walk in New York, 5K Walk and Run for his Club. Ade’Kamil organizes fundraisers, clothing drives and is a Tech Assistant in the Club’s Tech Lab.

Career Goal: Accountant


Alvin McRae, Jr. – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Trenton & Mercer County

Alvin McRae Jr0061Alvin is a senior at Trenton Central Ward High School West and has a 3.8 GPA. He is part of the Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP), Secretary of the Brothers of West Campus, and is a member of the Trenton Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) and the Young Men’s Leadership Academy. Alvin is also President of the Keystone Club.

Career Goal: Cardiologist


Celina Brieva – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Paterson & Passaic

Celina Brieva0011Celina is a senior at International High School and is an Honor Roll Student. She is ranked number one in her class and is on the debate team. She has traveled to Europe, Spain, Italy and Ireland with her school as an Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Ambassador. Celina is a member of the Paterson Youth Council, volunteers at the Paterson Charter School and is a lifeguard at her Club.

Career Goal: Archaeologist


Christopher Wiedenmann – Age 15 Picatinny Teen Center

Chris Wiedenmann0091Christopher is a freshman at Morris Knolls High School where his focus is on academics and playing basketball.  He volunteers for events such as the Santa Express, Spring Fling, Annual Easter Geed Hunt, Picatinny Mud Runs and sporting events. Christopher also volunteers at the youth center where he plays sports with the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes.

Career Goal: Marine


Dashima DeBerry – Age 16 Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City

Dashima Peberry0051Dashima is a senior at Atlantic City High School and in the Ecology Honors class. She is an outstanding track star, having won championship titles in the 00-yard sprint and 4×4 relay. She is a member the cheerleading squad, Vice President of the Keystone Club and a volunteer at Sister Jean’s soup kitchen.

Career Goal: Detective


Helen Ovando – Age 17 Boys & Girls Clubs of Hudson County

Helen Ovando0071Helen is a junior at William L. Dickinson High School where she is on the Volleyball and Bowling teams. She was a participant in the Jersey City School District’s Special Olympics Project for Unity, and is the Student Representative to the Board of Education. As the Keystone President, Helen rallied teens and the community to repaint the Club after Hurricane Sandy.

Career Goal: Social Work


Ijataque McClain – Age 18 Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County

Ijataque McClain0011Ijataque is a senior at Red Bank Catholic High School where she is President of the Multicultural Club, and a member of the Life Club and Minority Leadership Society.   She has raised money for the Haitian earthquake victims, the homeless, cancer victims and projects for social justice.   Ijataque volunteers at our Lady of Mount Carmel, is an Intern at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center Pediatric Ward, and a Club Lifeguard.

Career Goal: Nursing


Jasmine Cubuk – Age 18 Boys & Girls Club of Garfield

Jasmine Cubuk0121Jasmine is a senior at Garfield High School and is a straight “A” student. She is a member of the National and Math Honor Society and INTERACT Club. She helped organize blood drives at her high school and Club. As President of the Keystone Club, she participated in the Passaic River clean up, and various Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Career Goal: Biochemistry


Joshua Bishop-Mbachu – Age 16 Boys & Girls Club of Perth Amboy

Joshua Bishop-Mbachu0031Joshua is a junior at The Academy for Urban Leadership Charter High School and has a 4. GPA. He is President of Student Government, a member of the National Honor Society, STEP UP Community Service Club, and the Student Representative for the Board of Trustees. Joshua spearheaded a community service event with the Salvation Army, and is also a Boy Scout and Keystone Club member.

Career Goal: Pediatrician


Justin Phillips – Age 17 Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County

Justin Phillips0011Justin is a senior at Saint Mary’s of the Assumption where he is a member of the Spanish Club, Cup stacking, basketball, and flag football teams. He has volunteered in a soup kitchen, Rahway Retirement home and for various Club events.

Career Goal: Civil Engineer


Kailee Walsh – Age 15 McGuire Youth Programs

Kailee Walsh0051Kailee is a sophomore at Northern Burlington Regional High School where she is an Honor Roll student. She has performed in several school and community plays.   Kailee is a Thespian Honor Society Member, a leader in the Drama and Forensics League, 4-H Community Service Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Career Goal: Zoologist


Kayla Calvo – Age 15 The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of the Ironbound

Kayla Calvo0051Kayla is a freshman at Bloomfield High School, a member of the Junior Honor Society and is on the Honor Roll. Kayla is the Keystone President and organized a “Freshen Up Our Park” event. For two years she addressed the United Nations in New York on the topics of violence and education. Kayla started a Saturday Scrapbooking Club for community youth and adults and has volunteered over 950 hours.

Career Goal: Education


Krystal Rivera – Age 17 Earle New Jersey Navy Youth Center

Krystal Rivera0061Krystal is a senior at Monmouth Regional High School where she is a member of a program which helps to create and teach lesson plans to preschoolers. She is a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance, Animal Friendly Organization and helps to fundraise with her senior class.  Krystal is a Keystone member and is a strong advocate against bullying.

Career Goal: Education


Na’jee Wilson – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Vineland

Najee Wilson0061Na’jee is a senior at Vineland High School with a GPA of  3.3. She is a member of the National Honor Society, and participates in several school activities including plays, choir, cheerleading, Interact and Key Club. She is the President of the Dance/Step Club, a member of 00 Black Women, and Past President of Keystone. Na’jee has performed at the Concert for Kids and has hosted the Talent Expo for two years.

Career Goal: Registered Dietitian/Music/Performing Arts


Nicole Graff – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Northwest New Jersey

Nicole Graff0011Nicole is a junior at Wayne Hills High School with a 3.9 GPA. She was elected to the National Society of High School Scholars and National Honor Society. She is on the Lacrosse, Basketball and Cheerleading teams.   Nicole was a participant in the March of Dimes, Relay for Life Fund-Raisers, organized an Adopt-A-Solider Platoon fundraiser and volunteers for her church.

Career Goal: Early Education


Nicole Verduin – Age 17 Boys & Girls Clubs of Lodi/Hackensack

Nicole Verduin0011Nicole is a senior at Lodi High School with a 4.0 GPA and is in the top 5% of her graduating class. She is the recipient of the George Eastman Young Leaders Award, member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Captain of the Science League. As a Keystone member, Nicole helped organize fundraisers for her Club after Hurricane Irene and planned activities which include Day for Kids, Summer Olympics, and Teen nights.

Career Goal: Doctor


Ramon Rodriquez Jr. – Age 16 Boys & Girls Club of Hawthorne

Ramon Rodriguez, Jr0061Ramón is a junior at Passaic County Technical Institute and is an active member of E.R.A.S.E. (End Racism and Sexism Everywhere). He is a Class Representative where he volunteered with Special Olympics. He has been the recipient of two Presidential Awards, is a member of the Keystone Club, and has volunteered at several events including Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Free Throw for AIDS and Nickelodeon’s Big Help.

Career Goal: School Teacher


Selena Buchanan – Age 17 Fort Dix Youth Programs

Selena Buchanan0031Selena is a junior at Northern Burlington Regional High School where she has been on the Principal’s Honor Roll every year, and participates in softball and cheerleading.  Selena volunteers at the JBMF snack bar, Save Africa’s children, Run for Cancer, 5k Walk for HIV/AIDS, Special Olympics and is the Keystone Club President.

Career Goal: Mechanical Engineering


Shalesah Hall – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Gloucester County

A-145revised (2)1Shalesah is a senior at Glassboro High School where she participates in the school choir and is a member of the Black Culture Club. As President of the Keystone Club she led the distribution of Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas toys for needy children, and clothing for homeless shelters.  Shalesah also helped raise funds to attend The National Keystone Conference.

Career Goal: Business Management


Simone Stilley – Age 17 Boys & Girls Club of Clifton

Simone Stilley0041Simone is a senior at Clifton High School where she has been on the Distinguished Honor Roll each year and is in the top 4% of her class.   She is a member of the Track Team, Athletic Training Club and the Captain of the Gymnastics Team.   Simone is a member of the Keystone Club and volunteered at the City of Clifton Harvest Fest, The ShopRite Dance-A-Thon and Relay for Life.

Career Goal: Athletic Training