Tipping Point: Boys & Girls Clubs 2014 Chicago Youth of the Year - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Tipping Point: Boys & Girls Clubs' 2014 Chicago Youth of the Year

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Seventeen-year-old Shakhari Edwards was voted Chicago's "Youth of the Year" by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, and advanced to the state competition. However, now she has achieved the state-wide "Youth of the Year" award.

Shakhari will represent Illinois in the Boys and Girls Clubs "Youth of the Year" regional competition. If she wins regionals, next comes nationals and if she wins that, she gets $ 50,000 in scholarships.

The Boys & Girls Clubs is a shelter for young people and helps guide individuals to stay out of trouble and be successful, like their 2014 Youth of the Year.

"On August 15th, 2008, my brother Aramis Edwards was murdered. I was 12 years old, and I did not understand what was happening until the day of the funeral. I then realized I wasn't getting my brother back," said Shakhari Edwards in her speech for Chicago's 2014 Youth of the Year award.

Edwards, 17, worked on her speech for weeks. However, during the contest this month with a thousand people in the audience, her emotions still got the best of her.

"I shed some tears and then I had to think, to just pick myself back up and then finish it, you know, I can cry after," added Edwards.

"Once they announced her name, it was like my heart just like dropped, it was overwhelming, so really exciting," said Marlon Finley of the Chicago Boys & Girls Clubs.

Finley nominated Edwards for the Chicago Youth of the Year, not because of her family tragedy, but because of the way she fought through it.

"People who understand, and know, and see what a kid been through, knows that it take time, it takes a lot of time," added Finley.

"I do not know what type of person I would be today if I had not attended the Cotter Club," said Edwards in her speech.

The Daniel Cotter Boys & Girls Club sits in one of Chicago's oldest public housing developments. Similar to hundreds of other youngsters from the Lathrop homes, Edwards came to the club after school for a decade. She even came in the dark times after her brother was murdered, when her hopes and grades were failing.

"Some kids can't go to their family members, so they can come to the club and have that one person they can talk to, an adult they can always connect with," added Edwards.

Making that connection is especially important for young people who may need some convincing that they are important.

"It's no motivation for a kid to be walking to the club and everything is boarded up. So, that's not even motivating a kid to actually want to live here," said Finley.

While neighbors, housing officials and developers argue over what to do with the Lathrop homes, nearly half the almost 1,000 units are already boarded up. That is an uncertain future to say the least, which is what the Boys & Girls Clubs are hoping to avoid for young people.

"Since freshman year, I have maintained a GPA of 3.9 out of 4.0," said Edwards in her speech.

"I went through some things and I wouldn't wanna' see anybody else go through them, so why not help, you know, pass the blessing down to someone else," added Edwards.

Being chosen as the Chicago Youth of the Year out of nominees from clubs across the city comes with some prizes and prestige. The next round starts this week, for the state and national title.

Of course, Shakhari Edwards is already a winner.

"I know I will accomplish any goal I set forth. I will make myself, my family and my Boys and Girls Club proud. But most importantly, I will make my brother proud," Edwards said to finish her speech.

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