Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield honors local youth leaders

RIDGEFIELD — After taking its highly-anticipated event completely virtual last year, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield once again honored its best and brightest young leaders at the 2021 Youth Leadership Celebration on March 25.

The hybrid ceremony — which was held in-person and live streamed to viewers at home — recognized members for their achievements, efforts and dedication to the club and highlighted Youth of the Year honorees. Also historic this year was the introduction of BGCR’s inaugural Junior Youth of the Year.

BGCR CEO Mike Flynn attributes the addition of the award to the growth of the club’s teen population, which has increased steadily over the past 15 years. Through their candidacy for Junior Youth of the Year, underclassmen also had an opportunity to develop lifelong skills with a tangible outcome, he said.

“Our club has really developed a true, benchmark program that has engaged a huge population of high school kids,” Flynn said. “We wanted to bring [Youth of the Year] to the local level because the kids are so deserving of it. It’s also a motivator for our younger members that tune in since these are kids they look up to every day.”

Club members must meet certain criteria in order to be considered. The candidates attend educational, public speaking and interview workshops and must also submit written applications along with letters of support. Ahead of the celebration, a panel of judges -- made up of community leaders -- asks questions of the candidates that pertain to their involvement in the club.

“The judges are in tears when [they] hear some of these stories,” Flynn said. “When they come out of those interviews they feel . . . an immediate sense of achievement. The level of confidence and self-esteem they build is really just remarkable, and truly tells a story of what the Boys & Girls Club is all about.”

Sydney Rossi was named BCGR’s first-ever Junior Youth of the Year. “In the last couple of years, Sydney has really developed into a leader and someone who really cares about the club and the club community,” Flynn said. “She is really coming into her own and is passionate about everything she does at the club. We can’t wait to see what she’s going to do in the next two years as she finishes out her membership.”

Ridgefield High School senior and lifetime club member Eli Keeler was named the 2021 Youth of the Year. “Eli is an exemplary member of the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield and has been since he first joined,” Flynn said. “He has participated in all the programs and events that the club has to offer, and has really developed into a great role model for our younger club members and a true leader amongst his peers.”

Congratulations to all the Youth of the Year finalists

Youth of the Year: Finn Cronin, Carter Deane, Vanessa Diana, Owen Foley, Dylan Jones, Aidan Kratz and Katherine Ward.

Junior Youth of the Year: Max Barlow, Kayla Dewing, Dylan Kratz, Rowan MacKenzie, Devon Noonan, Lillian Ward and Emily Yee.

Keeler will go on to represent Ridgefield in the statewide Youth of the Year competition.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com