Moffat County High School student wins Youth of the Year for work with children
Taylor Oxenreider has been recognized as Boys & Girls Club of America's Youth of the Year for Northwest Colorado
Craig — At 17, Taylor Oxenreider knows what it’s like to walk into a workplace she loves. After school is over, on most days of the week, she goes to the Boys & Girls Club of Craig. That’s where Taylor works as a junior staff member, mentoring students who in some cases are only a little bit younger than she is.
“I love waking into the building and seeing smiles on the kids’ faces and hearing, ‘Miss Taylor! Miss Taylor! You’re here!’” said Oxenreider, a senior at Moffat County High School.
Oxenreider’s work has not gone unnoticed: She recently received recognition as Northwest Colorado’s Youth of the Year for 2016 — a recognition, from the Boys & Girls Club of America, that encompasses both the Craig and Steamboat Boys & Girls Clubs.
“The biggest thing I notice is that it comes so naturally to her,” said Tessa Fulton, teen director for the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, adding that Oxenreider will compete at the state level later this month. “She can talk to people, especially kids, in a way that makes them feel empowered and valuable.”
Oxenreider plays with the children at the club — engaging in a game of dodgeball at one moment, a LEGO project the next — and she also spends time talking with the older children at the center about their Social Action Project. That’s a project that, for the last few months, has focused on ways to improve mental health access in the area.
Sometimes, Oxenreider said, she helps students envision what’s to come as they move through their education.
“Some of them are in eighth grade, so a lot them have questions about the high school,” she said. “I’m there to lend an ear and give as much advice as I can.”
For the younger children, Oxenreider is someone whose position they can imagine themselves occupying just a few years down the road.
“I love being able to be a role model that they can look up to,” she said.
At the same time, Oxenreider said, she can meet children at their own level, especially when they need someone to talk to.
“I guess you could say I get on their level and have patience,” she said. “I know some middle-schoolers are just in a ‘go-go-go’ (mindset), and kids need that one-on-one time to talk with someone who isn’t their peer but is still close to their age.”
Mackenzi Telford, a 12-year-old seventh-grader who comes to the club, said it helps to have someone around who’s close to her age.
“We know that she went through things more (recently) than adults did,” Telford said.
Oxenreider, one of 12 junior staff members at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, has been coming to the Boys & Girls Club since she was 6 years old — and her future profession may very well allow her to continue her interaction with children. Oxenreider said she’s been accepted to Colorado Mesa University, where she plans to pursue a degree in elementary education.
“I’m very excited for that,” she said.
It’s a career goal that’s been brewing in Oxenreider’s mind for years.
“I’ve always had a passion for kids,” she said. “I come from a big family, and so my older siblings have kids — nieces and nephews I love.”
Teaching, for Oxenreider, seems like a natural extension of the rapport she’s developed with the children in her family — and the children she’s mentored at the Boys & Girls club.
“Every kid has a story,” she said.