Moffat County Locals: Youth of the Year nominees learn, teach, inspire as part of Boys & Girls Club of Craig

Youth of the Year nominees Darbi Zimmerman, Maddie Coutts and Reina Steele gather with their young charges at Boys & Girls Club of Craig. The three staff members are up for the annual award recognizing dedicated teen employees of the youth organization and will compete in January to represent Northwest Colorado at the state level.
Andy Bockelman

Whether competing for the first time or on multiple occasions, the Youth of the Year nominees for Boys & Girls Club of Craig all concur that the organization has made a huge difference in their lives, which they’ve worked to pay forward to the kids of Craig.

The Youth of the Year award honors teenage staff members of the club, collectively called “red shirts,” who have worked to build up younger club members.

This year’s nominees for Craig are Darbi Zimmerman, Reina Steele and Maddie Coutts, who will each participate in the cross-club competition against Steamboat Springs’ representatives in January. Nominees all give a speech detailing how the club has positively affected their lives and their future.

While the award used to focus on one Youth of the Year per club branch, Director Dana Duran said last year was when organizers opted to expand it. While only one Craig or Steamboat teen will receive the $1,000 scholarship that comes with the honor — as well as moving on to the state level — the rest will also receive smaller scholarships through fundraising.

“This I think gives them more of an opportunity to improve in public speaking because that’s something you do for a lifetime and this way they can all be more comfortable in it,” Duran said.

The three staff members gave their speeches during Dec. 7’s Cowboy Christmas.

Zimmerman recounted how an early experience while working at the club helped direct her into a potential career in dental hygiene as she aided a club member in extracting a baby tooth.

“For the longest time I wanted to be a teacher, but then I decided to change my profession to dental hygiene and I thought I could do pediatrics and still work with kids,” she said.

Zimmerman said she did not compete for the award last year but had promised family member and former BGC staff member Kari Zimmerman that she would in her final year of eligibility.

“I really wanted to explain how Boys & Girls Club impacts the lives of kids and the people who work here,” she said. “Not having Kari here, it’s pretty different and we’ve all had to adjust to that.”

Zimmerman said building relationships with kids, fellow staff, parents and more has been a huge part of her job.

“I definitely would not have experienced any of my relationships with kids if I didn’t work here. It makes my day when I walk through the door and kids are excited to see me and greet me,” she said. “I could have a rough, rough day outside of the club, but then as soon as I come here my day is completely different and that’s all because of the kids. They’re so happy to see me, and that makes me feel good about myself.”

Likewise, she credited the rest of the red shirts with being a great support system. Though some have been on staff for longer than others, there is no ranking.

“We’re all pretty equal, no matter our age,” said Zimmerman, a Moffat County High School senior. “I know that I can come to any of the staff that work here at Boys & Girls Club for any sort of problem.”

Steele and Coutts each competed for Youth of the Year last year. Coutts, also an MCHS senior, said she’s already feeling sentimental about what will be her final stretch on the staff after being involved with Boys & Girls Club since her freshman year.

Boys Girls Club of Craig staff members Darbi Zimmerman, Reina Steele and Maddie Coutts are joined by Tanya Ferguson before giving their speeches as Youth of the Year nominees.
Andy Bockelman

“Not being able to play with the kids and see them every day, that’ll be different. Those kids that you built a relationship with,” she said. “Being here so long, it’s bittersweet seeing kids come and go, but building those connections with them and knowing you can send them to other staff members they’re comfortable with, I love that. Not being able to play with the kids and see them every day, that’ll be different. Those kids that you built a relationship with.”

During her speech, Coutts got emotional discussing how her struggle with depression, adding that working with kids at the club aided her in coping with some darker points of her life, knowing she wasn’t alone.

She added that opening up about it without shame was key.

“I’m an overall better person for sharing my experience and letting others know that it’s OK to share all sides of the real you,” she said during her speech.

Coutts and Steele concurred that doing the contest for another year helped them build more perspective on what the club means to them.

“I think I’ve developed new leadership skills and learned how to develop those relationships with the staff that I work with, which has been a really rewarding experience,” Steele said.

Steele is an MCHS sophomore, and she said going through the Youth of the Year process wasn’t exactly the same the second time around.

“We had help from different people last year who aren’t around this year, so we’ve had different support in our writing,” she said.

Though some things have changed in the past year, Steele said the daily experiences on the job are what she finds as rewarding as when she first began.

“Seeing how they come from school to the Boys & Girls Club and that transition and learning about the things going on in their lives and how we can help them overcome challenges,” she said of her time with club members.

Duran got choked up during Cowboy Christmas, bringing the nominees for a final round of applause.

“I am so proud of those young women and the difference they make here at the club. Each of them reaches out to different groups of kids, supports the members of our club, supports their peers,” she said. “They’re wonderful young women that will light the world on fire, I’m certain of it. I feel so lucky to be a part of their journey and their success. They have made a tremendous change and changed the lives of kids and in my life too.”

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