Michelle Haynes, 16, has been named the Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren’s 2017 youth of the year. The honor was announced Monday at the organization’s inaugural Leadership Luncheon.

A junior at Van Buren High School, Haynes has been active at the boys and girls club for more than five years, both as a member and a staffer. She has participated in Torch Club and SMART Girls, and was elected president of Keystone Club for 2016-17. As leader of the program, she has spent many hours volunteering with the Van Buren School District’s IMPACT Meals program and in raising money to support club initiatives.

A dedicated student, Haynes has also held numerous leadership roles in her extra-curricular activities, all while taking various Advanced Placement and Pre-AP courses. After graduation, Haynes hopes to attend the University of Arkansas. She plans to pursue a career in non-profit management, “so she can continue to impact youth for many years to come.”

Haynes was one of two finalists in the running for the prestigious award. VBHS Senior Ja’Cory Taylor, 17, was the runner-up. Taylor has attended the club for more than a decade and currently serves as a staff member. He is vice president of Keystone Club and has volunteered many hours with IMPACT, feeding the homeless, and as a basketball and football coach. At VBHS, he was captain of the varsity football team his senior year. He will graduate in May, and plans to attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he will study accounting and real estate.

In addition to the youth of the year announcement, the luncheon included recognition of club donors and volunteers. BGCVB Executive Director Cindy Faldon kicked off the event by thanking members of the board and the more than 100 guests in attendance for their support of the organization.

Past youth of the year winners participated in the program, citing the club’s mission, the Boys and Girls Club code and the Pledge of Allegiance. They included 2014 winner Callie Burcham, 2015 YOY Brett Dunn, and 2016 honoree Tia Brown.

During the program, Boys and Girls Club of America Organizational Development Director Robin Schmidt made a surprise presentation, honoring long-time Boys and Girls Club of Van Buren board bember Henry Trimble. Trimble was presented with the 25 years of service award.

Schmidt noted that “25 years ago Henry answered to call to serve on the board,” and in that time has held the roles of board president, treasurer and even interim-CEO. Trimble received a certificate and a medal from Boys & Girls Club of America for his faithful service.

Van Buren School District Superintended Dr. Harold Jeffcoat served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Jeffcoat spoke about the theme of the day, sharing traits that successful leaders have in common. He commended the audience for their roles as leaders in the community, as well as the YOY finalists for their service and hard work.

Board member Ashley Garris and marketing consultant Brittany Ransom then took to the podium to share about the youth of the year candidates and introduce them to the audience. Ransom remarked that “both finalists are wonderful representatives of the club and all that boys and girls clubs stand for, but unfortunately, there can only be one winner.”

Garris then announced Haynes as the 2017 youth of the year. BGCVB Treasurer Brad Martin presented Haynes a $1,000 scholarship check from the BGCVB board of directors. Haynes now will advance to the state youth of the year competition, which will be in Little Rock in February.