A freshman at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is the 2018 youth of the year for the Boys and Girls Club in Van Buren.

Ja’Cory Taylor was recognized on Monday at the second annual Leadership Luncheon in the Commons at Van Buren High School.

“It feels great,” Taylor said of the honor. “I just hope to be able to inspire young kids in the community to do better. I want to pave the way for others by being a better person.”

Taylor said he also hopes to continue to mentor club members and show that the boys and girls club is there for kids of all backgrounds.

He also said he hopes to be a part of improving the club for future generations.

“My club experience was a good one,” Taylor said. “I had staff members who went out of their way to make my day special. I was told to strive for greatness in everything I do.”

He said his vision for America’s youth is to building a better club environment so that future members can have a better experience.

“Boys and girls clubs will live forever,” Taylor said. “I would like to help provide more clubs for kids in low-income locations so that everyone will get an equal opportunity to enjoy the club’s life.”

Taylor plans to try out for the U of A Razorback football team this year.

Michelle Haynes, the 2017 youth of the year, was runner-up to Taylor, who received a $1,000 scholarship. Haynes, a senior at VBHS who plans to attend the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, accepted a $500 scholarship from the club’s board of directors.

Haynes said the boys and girls club has been her “safe place” for the past seven years. And, as a staff member, she said she feels like she has 250 children.

“I want every single one of them to grow up and reach their dreams,” Haynes said “They are the future just as much as I am. My vision for America’s youth is greatness and for that many need to start reaching for their dreams now, right here in the walls of the boys and girls club.”

Club executive director introduced the luncheon’s guest speaker, Tim David, a former professional magician turned keynote speaker and author.

David spoke about how technology has become a replacement for human reaction. He said the average person stares at a screen for seven hours a day and that technology, such as cell phones, is now the preferred replacement for human reaction.

“Do you lose your mind if you cannot find your cell phone?” David asked. “Have you ever thought of disconnecting your grandmother’s life support to charge your cell phone?”

He said it is time to reconnect.

“Every minute is an opportunity to build or tear down a connection,” he said. “If there is a relationship you care about, it is time to be grateful.”

Board member Jim Petty closed the luncheon with a plea for financial support for the boys and girls club from the community.

“We give all we can,” Petty said. “This is an opportunity to be part of that effort to fight for those kids who cannot fight for themselves.”