Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale names Thunderbirds Branch teen its 2022 Youth of the Year

Six outstanding teen finalists from Greater Scottsdale clubs compete for the prestigious organizational title and scholarship awards    

Sydney Franks, 15-year-old Thunderbirds Branch Club member, was named the 2022 Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale (BGCS) Youth of the Year at a celebration held at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts Virginia G. Piper Theater on February 10. Sydney was awarded $25,000 in post-secondary education scholarship funds and will represent BGCS at the Arizona State Youth of the Year competition in April. 

“The Club has brought me many things throughout these past nine years—a sense of leadership, a voice, and friends that will stay with me as I continue my journey,” said the Desert Mountain High School sophomore. 

Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Club member can earn. The program requires a large commitment of time and hard work. Teens must write multiple essays, participate in interviews, and deliver a three-minute speech highlighting the impact of their Club experience to a panel of judges.  

“The Youth of the Year program celebrates leadership, club involvement and academic success and begins here at the local level,” said Ivan Gilreath BGCS President and CEO. “The amount of growth our teen candidates experience throughout the process is stunning. They all confidently stood on the stage at the Virginia G. Piper Theater and captivated the audience with their personal club stories.”

It was back in November when the six candidates were selected to represent their individual BGCS branches and compete for the organizational title. Along with Sydney, the 2022 field of finalists included Tafani Donaldson-Whaley from the Hartley & Ruth Barker Branch, Robin Ramirez from the Red Mountain Branch, J.P. Cahill from the Mary Ellen & Robert McKee Branch, Tara Feeney from the Virginia G. Piper Branch, and Hollyn Kadlec from the Vestar Branch. Each of the five finalists received scholarship awards in the amount of $6,000. 

Cheryl Ruggiero of Thunderbirds Charities; Microchip founder Steve Sanghi; Maria Sanghi of Sanghi Family Foundation; Lisa Westcott of The W Group-Silverleaf Realty; and Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther made up this year’s panel of judges. 

The teen selected to represent Arizona after the state competition will advance to the regional level. Each region will send its winner to the national competition that will culminate with the naming of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year in September. 

Scholarship funding for the candidates was provided by The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Foundation. 

 “Every kid can benefit from the safe environment, our caring youth development professionals, and our award-winning programming,” said Gilreath. “Parents find comfort in knowing they have a partner in helping their child find success. After these past few years, kids need us more than ever.” 

BGCS’s Clubhouses in Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, North Phoenix, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Haulapai Nation in Peach Springs are open to all youth ages five to 18. No child is turned away for inability to pay and BGCS provides more than $1.2 million in program assistance annually.

Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale at www.bgcs.org.