Adrianna Henderson’s dedication to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley could pay off to the tune of $20,000 in college scholarships. But even if she doesn’t take home the title of the club’s Youth of the Year, the Ahwatukee Foothills resident has gained other skills that will surely help as she goes forward into college and beyond.

Henderson is a senior at Horizon Community Learning Center and has been involved at the Thunderbird Branch of the Boys and Girls Club in Guadalupe throughout her high school career, first as a volunteer and part of the Leader in Training Program, and now as a part-time employee. She is one of eight finalists for the club’s Youth of the Year award, which was announced Monday night.

She was selected as the branch winner of the award, and with that title will receive at least $1,500 in scholarship funds courtesy of the Victoria Lund Foundation, San Tan Ford, and the award’s other sponsors.

Henderson takes her experiences working with kids at the Boys and Girls Club to heart and is there to continue to learn how to be a leader and play a role in the lives of youths who visit the club.

“It teaches you a lot of responsibility,” Henderson said. “This club has really inspired me. Who someone is is not just about race, gender, or their financial situation. I work with these kids every day and those things aren’t what matter most.”

On Monday, Henderson and each of the other candidates had to give a three-minute speech to a crowded room of Boys and Girls Clubs employees and a panel of judges, who ultimately decided upon a winner. An extensive application was required just to be considered, which included a resume, several essays and character references. Then Henderson had individual and panel interviews.

But going through the Leader in Training Program years before, she said she felt prepared for this situation and, in the future, will be prepared for the next big step — job interviews.

“I’ve felt like I have learned the important things,” Henderson said. “Being on time, dressing appropriately — these are the things that interviewers look at.”

Each branch nominated one youth for the Youth of the Year award and those candidates ultimately went on to become the group of the final eight. The winner of the East Valley award will go on to be considered for the Arizona award and after that, the national award. The National Youth of the Year award winner last year took home $130,000 in total scholarship money.

“She gets what the club is trying to give,” Thunderbird branch manager Tyler Vasquez said. “The kids all kind of look up to her. She has a really good chance and we are crossing our fingers that she wins.”

Over the horizon, Henderson will be attending Arizona State University in the fall. She plans to major in communications and minor in kinesiology.

And if things fall in her favor, she might not ever have to worry about paying for quite some time, if at all.

“My mom used to be a volunteer here, and I just kind of followed in her footsteps,” Henderson said. “Now it could make a huge difference in paying for college.”

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