Paige Mackenzie named Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year

January 7, 2012

By Christopher Huber

New: Jan. 7, 12:17 p.m.

Sammamish youth Paige Mackenzie was reminded recently of why she volunteers for the Boys & Girls Club.

On Thanksgiving, she and a group of youth leaders delivered a big dinner to a family in need. One of the family’s sons answered the door and gave a look of shock, exclaiming, “this is so cool!” Mackenzie said.

“I think for me it was a moment of realizing how privileged most of us are up here on the plateau, and thinking that I take even having a Thanksgiving dinner for granted,” she said.

Paige Mackenzie

Mackenzie, a senior at Eastlake High School, learned soon after that Thanksgiving moment, on Dec. 12, that she is the 2011 Youth of the Year for the Redmond-Sammamish Boys & Girls Club. Club leaders and board members set her apart among a handful of other candidates, according to the club.

“I was really taken aback when I received the award,” Mackenzie said. “It is such a huge honor to be recognized for something that I do just because I love it.”

Debbie Williams, a Sammamish resident who was a judge for the center’s Youth of the Year selection, said it was tough to choose a winner.

“The candidates that came to us were all amazingly well qualified,” said Williams, who is head of the Joshua P. Williams Foundation. “I was very impressed by what all of these youths have done in their short lives, especially in an environment where there are a great many privileged teens who have more advantages.”

The selection process involved each candidate going through a 45-minute interview with the judges. In addition to Williams, they included Mari Greshowak, community member and club volunteer, Lynne Handlos, recreation coordinator for the city of Sammamish, and Redmond/Sammamish Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors president Kristin Pitt.

Mackenzie has been a member of the club for 10 years and has volunteered and worked on staff there in a variety of positions and activities, Boys & Girls Club leaders said.

“What set Paige above the others was her long history with the club,” Williams said. “She will always come back, as this club has been a second home for her. I also think we were all impressed by her maturity, speaking abilities and confidence in her interview as she discussed her life and her future goals.”

She’s been attending programs or serving in some capacity since she was 7, Mackenzie said. She said she spent so much time with the club’s leaders and volunteers growing up, and lately as a part-time worker with the younger children, that it was only natural for her to give back as part of the Keystone program — the club’s youth leadership and community service organization.

“They really helped mentor me and get me to where I am today,” Mackenzie said.

She said she plans to attend Western Washington University in the fall and study to become a nurse anesthetist. To get a jumpstart on that ambition, she has sought to work with community medical professionals.

Mackenzie moves on to the countywide Youth of the Year competition, where she will compete against her winning counterparts from 13 other Boys & Girls Clubs in King County, according to a club press release. The Boys & Girls Club will announce the King County Youth of the Year at its annual banquet Feb. 9 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. If Mackenzie wins that, she will move on to the national competition, the winner of which receives up to a $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President.

The Eastlake youth offered some advice to her peers around Sammamish about volunteering — “Do it.”

“Find something that you love to do, get your friends involved, but also make sure you are focused on helping others,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be something that takes up all of your time, 10 hours a month on your part can make a huge impact on many others lives.”

Reporter Christopher Huber can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com.

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