Denzel Washington has long been committed to supporting underserved communities as the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, an organization that provides life developing programs for young people. He was a member of the Boys & Girls Club as a kid, and became the program’s national spokesman in 1992. He has also served on the organization’s national Board of Governors since 1995.
During its annual gala in Washington, DC. on October 29, Washington introduced Whitney Stewart, the club’s National Youth of The Year winner.
Stewart is a University of Pennsylvania freshman who served as the president of her local club’s teen leadership group in Florida where she grew up. She’s also on the organization’s National Teen Advisory Board.
Stewart’s year-long journey to receiving the organization’s top honor began after her local Club selected her as their Youth of the Year representative, which then progressed to state and regional competitions, which culminated during this week’s ceremony featuring youth from five regions. Now she plans to pursue a career as an attorney in the U.S. Air Force, followed by a career in politics and academia.
During an interview with The Huffington Post, Washington expressed his enthusiasm for naming Stewart as this year’s winner.
“I’m proud of this young lady, I’m proud of all the young people that I had the opportunity to meet over the years at the Boys & Girls Club,” Washington said. “And if in any way, I was any kind of influence then I’m happy for that. But just as equally, I’m just proud of what they’re doing, and I have the opportunity to pass the baton — so it is now in Whitney’s hands and in their hands.”
For her part, Stewart says she’s “determined and focused” to continue her community service. “That’s going to be something that’s always going to be a constant in my life,” Stewart said to HuffPost. “It’s so important to build the people around you up, so that they can be successful to. What’s the value of being successful if you can’t build others up to be successful themselves?”
Washington also shared some of the important life lessons that he has learned since joining the Boys & Girls Club -– which includes keeping things “simple.”
“Life is not as complicated as we make it out to be. We’re not as important as we think we are,” he said. “The lessons I’ve learned and the things that I recall is just lessons of humility, working hard, having goals, and trying to achieve those goals.”
In addition to Stewart being awarded $145,000 in academic scholarships, this year’s Youth of the Year participants will awarded more than $1 million in scholarships.