Youth ambassador

Nneka Willis: Harford teen shows the powerful potential of Boys & Girls Clubs in Maryland.

Bright Lights

May 10, 2000

ALREADY a persuasive ambassador who's made a difference in her world, Edgewood's Nneka Willis has her eye on future service in the United Nations.

The Joppatowne High School senior was recently named Youthof the Year by the Maryland Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, a tribute to her achievements in and for the organization. She's soon off to Hampton University on a scholarship to study foreign relations.

Responsibility and leadership came early in life to Nneka, who has organized community cleanup campaigns and led after-school tutoring programs at the Edgewood Boys & Girls Club. She works at a video store to help her family and baby-sits her young niece so her sister can stay in school. She plays varsity basketball and tennis while taking Advanced Placement courses and participating in the National Honor Society.

It's more than most grownups could manage, but the impressively mature Nneka credits her strong church upbringing and her encouraging mother's example for her abilities.

At the Edgewood club, it's teamwork that creates success, Nneka says. "I want to show people who do not live in my area that Edgewood is a nice place to live, and we can make it so."

The Boys & Girls Clubs provide underserved communities a valuable after-school home for children who need a hand with homework, an understanding mentor, a safe place to play, opportunities to expand their horizons. They are havens for many disadvantaged kids that encourage members to help each other.

The nonprofit organization has 17 clubs in Maryland. Recognizing the Boys & Girls Clubs as an effective source of youth services, the state is giving $100,000 to build a new club in Lusby, on land donated by the Calvert County schools. Further state aid is planned to expand the clubs' after-school, counseling and family outreach programs.

Nneka Willis is an outstanding example of the success that these youth clubs can achieve.

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