LIVINGSTON, NJ — Amy Butcher, a West Orange resident, earned the West Essex YMCA’s 2016 Youth of the Year Award at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ 40th annual recognition dinner, held at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover on Wednesday.

Swimming at the Livingston-based Y has been a major part of Butcher’s life, from taking swim lessons as a young child to teaching lessons and lifeguarding as a 15-year-old West Orange High School sophomore.

In between, Butcher swam on the pre-team, won awards as a member of the swim team, and coached both the Piranhas Special Olympics swim team and the age-eight-and-under swimmers as a volunteer.

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“Her enthusiasm and passion for swimming helped start her on the team, and her dedication to our YMCA is what has led us to single her out from so many young Y members,” West Essex YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores said. 

Butcher considers the Y her “second home” and “second family.”

“The Y makes me the happiest person,” said Butcher, whose mother, Vicki, works at the West Essex Y welcome center.

Her 17-year-old brother, James, is also lifeguard at the YMCA.

Butcher said she was honored to be recognized by an organization that she greatly admires.

“The Y has taught me to be a leader,” she said. “This place draws me away from the drama of being a teenager.”

According to Butcher, her YMCA experiences may have shaped her career leanings. She said she wants to become a teacher, and that volunteering with the children on the Piranhas swim team for three years has inspired her to pursue a degree in special education.

On the swim team, Butcher was the high-point award winner for her age category last season, and in 2015, she won the Sportsmanship Award.

“Amy is an excellent swimmer and a great role model for her younger teammates,” Flores said.