Shelton teen, ‘full of energy and life,’ honored as Youth of the Year
SHELTON — Selected among several outstanding local youth, Lilly Taska has been named the Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley.
Now in its 73rd year, the Youth of the Year program honors an exemplary young person for their leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle, according to the group.
Taska will now go on to contend for the Connecticut Youth of the Year title and a $2,500 college scholarship from Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
“Lilly exemplifies all of the attributes that a Youth of the Year should exhibit,” said Shaye Roscoe, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. “We are so proud of her and could not have selected a better representative.”
Taska joined the area Boys and Girls Club when she was 6 years old and has been a member for 12 years.
When she was old enough, Taska applied for a job as a youth development professional and could help ease the financial burden for her single mother, the announcement said.
Roscoe said Taska participated fully in a variety of the club’s programs including Chess Club, music, crocheting and the Immersion Science and STEM mentoring programs. She also participated in Healthy Habits, SMART Movies and SMART Girls — the resistance training programs that are designed to help youth say no to peer pressure and negative influences.
Taska said she found a second home at the Boys and Girls Club.
“They truly cared about my safety and well-being, something I never received from any other adult besides my mom,” Taska said. “When my mom was working hard at two jobs, the people inside the Club stepped in to ensure that my needs were always met, both emotionally and physically.”
Taska exudes a positive attitude that many adults in the same situation would be hard pressed to show, said Roscoe.
“She is full of energy and life and the desire to guide our younger members away from the dangers of substance abuse, knowing intimately how it can ruin lives,” said Roscoe.
If Taska is named Connecticut Youth of the Year, she will contend for the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year, which comes with an additional $20,000 in college scholarships. Six finalists will then advance to Washington, D.C., in October to vie for the title of Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year will receive an additional scholarship of $50,000.
The Youth of the Year program is supported by Toyota.
Also competing for the Youth of the Year title was Da’Yanna Streater from the Joel E. Smilow Unit in Ansonia.
Five members of the community served as judges for the organization’s competition, including Sharon Closius, president and CEO of the Valley Community Foundation; Anne Keane of Prudential; state Sen. George Logan; Ramon Peralta of Peralta Illustration and Design LLC; and Jimmy Tickey, district director for Congressman Jim Himes. The five met at the Raymond P. Lavietes Unit in February to interview Taska and Streater and deliberated to choose the winner.