High school senior Callie Burcham will represent the Van Buren Boys and Girls Club this week when she completes for Arkansas youth of the year.

Callie, 18, will be in Little Rock Tuesday and Wednesday to vie with seven others for the state title.

"Callie is well respected by her peers, younger club members and senior staff members of our organization and teachers of our school district," said Cindy Faldon, chief professional officer for the Van Buren Boys and Girls Club.

Cindy Nelson, career development facilitator at VBHS, echoes Faldon’s praise of Callie.

"She is an excellent role model and has a strong moral character and a wonderful work ethic," Nelson said. "She is responsible, dedicated and dependable."

Callie, with a high school GPA of 4.06 and an ACT composite score of 29, has a scholarship to attend the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology with plans to become an optometrist.

The youngest of three children, Callie also has a half sister and three half brothers.

Each of her siblings has been a member of the boys and girls club, some playing sports and others attending. Her mother was a volunteer cheer coach and her father and stepfather both coached little league baseball.

"The club has given us a place to go when we couldn’t go anywhere else," Callie said. "The boys and girls club has changed my life and the lives of family members."

Callie’s older sister Brigette Cereceres said Callie is a very strong and independent person.

"She is goal oriented and has a bright future ahead of her," Brigette said. "She is a great sister and a very god role model to our younger sister. She started leading a healthier lifestyle that motivated the household to do the same."

Brigette said Callie likes to take on the responsibility and leadership of planning family events.

"When we have a family task that needs to be done, we can always count on Callie to come up with an easy effective way to get it done," Brigette said. "She always steps up and people can count on her no matter what."

Callie has been a member of the boys and girls club for 11 years and currently a staff member who strives to provide club members with a sense of belonging, usefulness, competence and power or influence, Faldon said.

"She strives to remember every child’s name when they walk through the doors of her program area so she can great them with a smile and a hello by name," Faldon said. "She is constantly researching high-yield learning activities on her own time for younger club members."

Misty Walters, who has children who attend the club, had more praise for Callie.

"As a mother knowing that there are still teenagers, such as Callie, that care more about doing what is right and fair than what is cool … means more than anything when I’m entrusting my children with them," Walters said.

Teddy McMurray, social studies department chairman at VBHS, said Callie is admired by both her peers and teachers at the high school.

"She is an outstanding student who has demonstrated her leadership skills both in and out of the classroom," McMurray said. "She fully understands the concept of giving back to the community."

Mary Duncan, VBHS advanced placement history teacher, said Callie is a critical thinker who works well with her peers and instructors.

"She is charming and compassionate, passionate and hardworking, and above all mature," Duncan said. "She is never one to shy away from a challenge and is usually the first one to volunteer for an activity. Callie is one of the ‘joys’ in this world."

Callie said she had no idea the impact the club would have on her life when she became a member at the age of 6.

"Twelve years ago I simply wanted to cheer," she said. "It did not take long, however, for me to beg my mom to let me go. I did not realize it at the time, but I was learning valuable lessons and skills, and forming lifelong friendships that would help shape my future."

Callie said the club quickly became a part of her life.

"I made many new friends and became very involved in programs such as the Torch Club," she said. "I fit in at the club and going there gave me something to look forward to after school."

She said the club took her thinking in a new direction.

"In Torch Club, I learned about the importance of giving back and serving and I realized I could make a difference in my community," Callie said. "As one year ran into the next, it made me start to think about what direction I wanted to go with my life."

She said the club opened her eyes to the positive aspects of her life. She said she was making a difference and that was exactly what she wanted.

"I am very honored to represent the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren as its youth of the year candidate," Callie said. "I will be forever grateful for the friendships made and the lessons learned while attending, volunteering and working at the boys and girls club. I will always remember the club giving me the chance to belong and feel useful, important and competent."