UNION, NJ – Four Roselle Youth were honored at Thursday night’s Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County’s 2017 Youth of the Year Awards Dinner.

Buddie of the Year went to Akei Griffin, Jr., Arianna Holmes and Karissa Pierre along with Junior of the Year, to Ashlee Barratt all from the Roselle Club. 

Others honored were Union High School senior Monisola Omole, 18, who will be attending college in the fall to study biomedical engineering.  She hasn’t made her final decision on schools, although she has received several acceptances.  After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Omole plans on attending medical school to pursue a career as a reproductive endrocrinologist.

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Omole has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club for seven years. “I’m honored to receive this award,” she said.  “It’s a great feeling to get recognized for all of my community service and academic accomplishments.”

In addition to Omole, other Youth of the Year candidates were Union High School sophomore Jalynn White, Barack Obama Green Charter High School senior Anandah Gomez, and Thomas Edison Career and Technical Academy senior Najiyyah Dunn.

The “Youth of the Year” award is presented to a young adult between the ages of 14-18 who has exemplified superior leadership skills, academic achievement and outstanding service to the Club and the community.

“Tonight we celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of children that go above and beyond the norm,” said Boys and Girls Clubs of Union County Chief Executive Officer Russell Triolo.  “Our teen Merit Award winners/Youth of the Year candidates have grown up and faced challenges head-on and used the experiences to not only grow into strong individuals, but also to help them help others.”

Elizabeth club member Jadon Taylor, 16, came to the event to support his friend and Youth of the Year candidate Najiyyah Dunn.  “When I found the Boys & Girls Club, I found external life,” he said.  “As a kid, I didn’t have a lot to do after school.  The Boys & Girls Club has become family.”

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Union County Freeholder Vernell Wright, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage and Township of Union Mayor Suzette Cavadas were on hand to congratulate the award recipients, their families and the Boys and Girls Clubs staff.

“Your hard work has not gone unnoticed,” said Mayor Cavadas.  “You will be able to achieve whatever you want; whatever your goals are.  You will have a positive impact on our community.”

In addition to the “Youth of the Year” title, club members were recognized within three other award categories:  “Buddie of the Year” (ages 6-9), “Junior of the Year” (ages 10-13), and “Spirit of the Year” (ages 6 & up). 

“I’m very grateful to win this award,” said Junior of the Year Award recipient and Burnet Middle School student Hilda Boakye. “It’s been a great experience for me for the past two years and the Boys & Girls Club has helped me appreciate my dreams.”

Six year old LaShawn Gertrude, Jr., of Plainfield, said he enjoys playing at the Boys & Girls Club after he finishes his homework.  “I have a lot of friends there,” he said.  “The teachers are helpful and nice.”

LaShawn’s mother, Sabrina, said the Boys & Girls Club has been wonderful for LaShawn.  “He is a Type 1 diabetic and the staff there are aware of his needs and cares for him so well.”

Awards were presented to:

Buddie of the Year:  Shantel Joseph (Union Club); LaShawn Gertrude, Jr. (Plainfield Club); and Carrie Abimah and Jaelyn Lovett (Hillside Club).

Junior of the Year:  Hilda Boakye (Union Club); Jerome Rosado Lugo (Elizabeth Club); Loren J. Ocampo (Plainfield Club); and Juliana Kruk (Hillside Club).

Spirit of the Year:  Matthew Rodriguez (Union Club); Ny’Reece Leach (Elizabeth Club); Zaire Young (Plainfield Club); and Taila Davis and Tai Davis (Hillside Club).