Shine on, stay bright: Maddie Coutts to represent Craig Boys & Girls Club at state Youth of the Year
Though she’s experienced some dark times in her past, Maddie Coutts is shining bright going forward as the Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado.
During the Jan. 29 competition among six Craig and Steamboat Springs teenagers representing the local branches of the youth organization, Maddie said she was in a bit of shock when it was her name that was announced as the recipient of the award.
“I was shocked, and when they called my name, I just said, ‘Are you sure it’s me?'” she said.
Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year honors teen staff members at clubs across the nation for their efforts in reaching out to younger kids and in their speeches about how the organization has impacted them.
For Maddie, working at the club helped her come to terms with depression and suicidal thoughts, the details of which she spoke of in her presentation during the Craig branch’s Cowboy Christmas and the larger event last week in Steamboat.
Her realization that certain club members might be experiencing the same struggles helped her talk about her own troubles and also shed some of the stigma associated with mental health issues.
None of the six nominees went home empty-handed. Maddie and fellow Craig co-workers Reina Steele and Darbi Zimmerman and Steamboat associates Daisy Wilson, Adalid Ponce, and Mallory Thomas each received scholarship money through an anonymous donor, with the five runners-up receiving $2,000 each.
Maddie took the big check for $3,000, though she couldn’t help but laugh that there was a minor typo with her surname spelled “Counts.”
Maddie’s impending educational plans are to attend Bozeman’s Montana State University — where she’s already been accepted for the next school year — with plans to focus on nursing and pediatrics.
She said a long stretch of working with children has helped her appreciate the importance of medical professionals who can relate to young patients.
“I know kids see them as the bad guy, but maybe I could be that one that makes kids look forward to going to the doctor just because they get to see someone who’s kind,” she said.
As the winner of the regional competition, Maddie could pick up a little more school funding in the upcoming weeks, representing Northwest Colorado in the Youth of the Year state event in March in Denver.
After vying for an award with five other worthy contenders, the state competition will put her up against about three times as many kids from across Colorado, with paperwork due more than a month before the event.
Besides working on her speaking skills and keeping her speech closely cut to the time limit, Maddie said she’s more excited about the networking aspects than the contest itself.
“I’m excited to meet new people and hear their stories and how their clubs are run and ask them for some of their ideas and how things are different for rural and city kids,” she said.
Dana Duran, director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado, said believes Maddie’s story makes her particularly “compelling” as a representative of the organization.
“The way she takes ownership of that story at such a young age, I think she can be such a wonderful role model for so many other kids,” Duran said. “I’m really proud of Maddie for telling that story and allowing it to be OK for her and her peers and all the kids we serve at the club. I think Maddie has a great chance at the state-level competition.”
Duran said the hardest part of the regional competition for her was seeing six young women she’s known for many years each shine in their presentation but only seeing one go to the next tier.
“You put a microphone in their hands and they ran with it,” she said. “It was really remarkable to see the work that we do every day come to fruition in the words that they say. I can talk about the clubs forever, but when you hear young people that have grown up in our clubs take ownership of what we’re trying to do… Boys & Girls Club works and it matters, and it’s important in the lives of our young people and our young women.”
Duran said she was moved to tears multiple times during speeches.
“I think I cried eight times,” she said. “I couldn’t have been more proud.”