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Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Announces 2022 Youth of the Year

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Every year, six local high school students compete for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties Youth of the Year title. Presented by the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust, this prestigious honor was announced at the organization’s annual Steak & Burger, Youth of the Year Celebration on Friday, February 4. 

Youth of the Year is the premier recognition program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that fosters a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world. The program celebrates the extraordinary achievements of Club members across the nation.

Since 2015, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties have had five State Youth of the Years, three Regional Youth of the Years, and one National Youth of the Year winner. This year, out of the 24 candidates only six were chosen to represent each of the Clubs.

Youth of the Year Finalists: Jaliyah L., Mykayla G., D’Kai S., Francisco H., and Ashley V.
Maureen Nwokeji, accepting the award on behalf of Bernadette N.
Photo by Cliff Roles

The following Club members were ideal candidates and represented their Clubs well during the event. Each candidate exemplified the Boys & Girls Clubs mission and is proof of the impact the Clubs make in transforming lives. Meet the candidates:

Mykayla G. is a 15-year-old sophomore at Booker High School. Mykayla is a member of the Roy McBean Boys & Girls Club and plans to pursue a career in medicine.

Francisco H. is a 19-year-old senior at North Port High School. Francisco is a member of the Gene Matthews Boys & Girls Club and would like to pursue a career in sports management and physical therapy.

Jaliyah L. is a 14-year-old middle-schooler at DeSoto Middle School. Jaliyah is from our Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boys & Girls Club and would like to pursue a degree in psychology.

D’Kai S. is a 17-year-old senior enrolled at Booker High School. D’Kai is a member of the Newtown Estates Boys & Girls Club and hopes to pursue a business degree.

Ashley V. is a 16-year-old sophomore at Venice High School. Ashley is a member of the Robert and Joan Lee Boys & Girls Club and has her sight set on a career in the medical field.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties (BGCSDC) proudly announced Bernadette N., a 17-year-old student at Riverview High School, as the 2022 BGCSDC Youth of the Year. The Youth of the Year competition celebrates the leadership and acumen of our amazing Club members. As Youth of the Year, Bernadette is recognized as an advocate who has made significant contributions to her community and as a leader who has had an immeasurable impact upon her Club. 

As a member of the Club’s Advocacy 101, which cultivates young individuals' ability to lead and advocate for themselves and the causes they believe in, Bernadette was able to participate in the Florida House of Representatives Page & Messenger Program. This week-long experience provided the opportunity for teens to travel with Club staff to Tallahassee to observe lawmakers, lobbyists and constituents work together in the legislative process. While in Tallahassee, Bernadette was able to speak on the floor and address members of the House concerning a bill she helped to co-write during her participation of Girls State & Girls Nation. Bernadette’s bill, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, aims to combat the prevalence of food deserts in Florida. The bill was sponsored in both the House and the Senate and received unanimous bipartisan support in the Agriculture Committee.

To watch Bernadette speak at the Senate Committee, please click here:

Photo by Cliff Roles: Maureen Nwokeji, Vanessa Tase Sueiro, and Bill Sadlo, President/CEO

This is just the beginning of an exciting journey for Bernadette. After winning the organization’s title, she will now have a chance of becoming the 2022 State of Florida Youth of the Year. From this moment on, and with each win, Bernadette will have an opportunity to earn academic scholarships, speak at national conferences and meet elected officials.

Congratulations to Mykayla G., Francisco H., Jaliyah L., D’Kai S., and Ashley V., who will continue to be leaders in their communities and carry the Youth of the Year title for their local Club. Bill Sadlo, President/CEO, shared: “Our world is in great hands when I see the dedication and drive these young leaders bring to our Clubs. We are all winners because we have experienced the hope and optimism of each candidate to create a great future not only for themselves but for others.”

The beloved western-themed celebration started at 6 p.m. at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club, located at 3100 Fruitville Road in Sarasota. Guests were encouraged to dress in casual western attire as they enjoyed their food and cheered on the candidates.

The Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust announced a $25,000 matching opportunity that was met before the night began with support from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and Mrs. Marilyn Naiditch. As the evening’s program continued, an anonymous donor stepped up with an additional $50,000 matching opportunity. All proceeds from the event will give thousands of Club members greater opportunities to excel in school, become leaders, live healthy lifestyles and plan for success after high school graduation. Sponsorship support will ensure our Clubs continue to provide the best services possible for local youth to achieve their full potential. 

Click Here to see photos of the event by Cliff Roles

Presenting Sponsor: Louis and Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust. Event Sponsors: Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Bucket Fillers Inc., Intertape Polymer Group, Caldwell Trust Company, Wagner Consulting, Blistex, CoolToday, Drs. Pat & Bob Gussin, Bruce Laishley & Jane Mascola, Meghan O. Serrano, Esq., Sabal Palm Bank | Seacoast Bank, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Tom & Debbie Shapiro, Synovus, Captivation Agency, Palm Printing, Gecko’s Hospitality, Gold Coast Eagle Distributors, Coca-Cola, and Nothing Bundt Cakes.


Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties have played an integral role in the lives of local youth for more than 50 years, providing daily programs and services to thousands of young people. The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The vision is to provide a world-class Club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who walks through our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship, and living a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit or call 941-366-3911.

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