With two older brothers, Katie Morris never felt she had the opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone younger.
That's why volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig was a perfect fit for her.
"Coming here really gave me a chance to be a good example, and I really like that," Morris said.
Morris, a Moffat County High School senior, feels she's the one gaining from the experience, but Boys & Girls Club officials think they're the lucky ones. They've named Morris the 2006 Youth of the Year. She'll be honored at the Cowboy Christmas fundraiser tonight.
"Everybody who knows her knows she's got a great spirit and a great heart and an amazing amount of enthusiasm that kids really latch onto," said Jonathan Godes, the club's executive director.
Morris has volunteered at the club since her sophomore year. She was hired as a junior staff member last year, which means she is paid to monitor the computer lab, play games with the children and lead programs. Specifically, Morris said she enjoys teaching club members about health and nutrition, arts and crafts and bingo.
Aside from the Boys & Girls Club, Morris is a high school athlete and is involved in several community service clubs.
Morris has run cross-country and track throughout her high school career. Assistant cross-country coach Jennifer Pressgrove said Morris is an important runner for the team, and that she's competed at the state level every year but this one.
"She's always been a really big part of the team, but unfortunately she got a stress fracture this year, which really hurt the team," Pressgrove said. "We might have gone to state if we'd had her."
Morris is also involved with the high school's theater productions. She played Helena in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Veruca Salt in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Morris is also a member of Student Council, Key Club and El Pomar Youth in Community Service, a group within Youth United Way that designates funds from the El Pomar Foundation to nonprofit organizations.
"I've known her for a really long time," said Corrie Scott, the local El Pomar adviser. "She's always very enthusiastic and just has a great personality. Whenever we have a project, she just jumps in with both feet."
Scott said it's Morris' attitude that makes her the best choice for Youth of the Year.
"She always tries to see the good in everything," Scott said. "She's just a individual who you enjoy working with because they have a great spirit."
Perhaps above all else is Morris' academic success. She maintains a 3.7 grade point average while taking college-level courses.
With that, Morris hopes to attend Northern Arizona University and major in journalism or theater. As a semi-finalist for the Daniels Scholarship, Godes said he's sure Morris can make that happen.
Godes and other Boys & Girls Club officials nominated Morris for the scholarship that covers nearly all tuition and other fees at any accredited two- or four-year college or university.
Morris also has the opportunity to win another scholarship. If chosen as the statewide Youth of the Year, announced in March, Morris will receive a full scholarship to Adams State University or $5,000 to attend the school of her choice. The state winner is then eligible to compete for the national award, and further scholarship opportunities.
This all comes as a shock to Morris, who said she couldn't believe the news when she found out she was chosen as the local Youth of the Year.
"You don't really come down (to the Boys & Girls Club) to be noticed," Morris said. "You come down here to help. So to be honored for the work that I do means a lot to me."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.