Misty Copeland helps celebrate teen’s Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year award

EXCLUSIVE: Josias, 15, was awarded $100,000 in scholarships and a Toyota Corolla

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The Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) offers their annual Youth of the Year Award to an outstanding young member of the clubs all over the nation. This year’s recipient, Josias R., was presented his award with the help of Youth of the Year Ambassador, ballet dancer Misty Copeland.

Josias, a teen from the Bristol, Connecticut club was one of 4.6 million members of the BGBA both in the U.S. and abroad. After winning Youth of the Year at the local, state and regional levels, Josias was one of six finalists considered for the national award.

The finalists were tasked with writing essays and give public speeches in the competition. A virtual ceremony to announce the winner happened on Oct. 6, where Copeland issued words of encouragement to the young members.

Read More: Misty Copeland discusses Russian ballerinas in blackface during Women of Power Summit

Josias first joined the Bristol BGCA at 15 as a volunteer and soon became a leader among his peers. However, he wasn’t so sure if he should at first.

Josias R. reacts to winning the 2020 National Youth of the Year Award. (Photo: Boys and Girls Clubs of America)

“It was definitely anxiety-inducing, at first. I hadn’t ever been in a position of leadership and I was super reclusive,” Josias told theGrio. “I’m on the autism spectrum, and I hadn’t really felt like I had the platform to be a leader in the past. So, this was a completely new experience.”

As the Youth of the Year, Josiah will receive $100,000 in scholarships as well as a Toyota Corolla. Josias’s education is already on the fast track, being duel enrolled in high school and community college during his senior year.

“I’ve transferred from my community college over to my state university, Central Connecticut State University where I’m studying technology, engineering an education so I can become a nerdy tech teacher, and teach kids all about the wonderful things of STEM,” Josias said.

Read More: Black youth activist movement at the forefront of political change

Copeland, who has been Youth of the Year’s Ambassador since 2013, is ecstatic for Josias’ victory and was impressed by all of the finalists.

Misty Copeland @ Carnegie Hall
Getty Images

“I feel like every single year, to see the group of kids who are a part of the Youth of the Year program; they keep getting smarter and more creative and more artistic and more confident,” Copeland told theGrio. “It’s so encouraging to know that those are the individuals who will be leaders in our society and in this country. It’s such a beautiful thing to have some confidence and comfort in.”

It was the BGCA that led Copeland, 38, down the path to becoming a superstar ballet dancer, and the first Black American principal dancer of the prestigious American Ballet Company. She was 11 when she first set foot onto the San Pedro, California club, and it immediately made an impact on her.

“That’s where we would go. It was the first time I experienced real security and structure in my life because of the atmosphere I grew up in,” Copeland said. “At 13-years-old, to have found ballet on a basketball court at my Boys and Girls Club completely changed my life. There’s just so many endless opportunities that you can gain and get from being a part of the Boys and Girls Clubs.”

Copeland was voted a BGCA Alumni Hall of Famer in 2011. She joined the likes of Michael Jordan, Denzel Washington, Usher, and Raphael Saadiq.

Read More: Misty Copeland was once told to lighten her skin for a ballet role. Why she said ‘no.’

Misty Copeland performs onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards “Let’s Go Crazy” The GRAMMY Salute To Prince on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

In addition to her ambassadorship with Youth of the Year, Copeland has been putting her time to good use during the coronavirus pandemic. With the theater district on indefinite lockdown, there’s been little to no outlet to dance and train.

“It’s been difficult. This is our livelihood. With theaters shut down, there’s no way for us to keep up our training without access to studios. In order to maintain the level of training we need, it’s really impossible to do that in your apartment or in your home.”

With her ballet on hold, Copeland says she wants to “use my voice as a platform to the best of my ability,” and she’s lending helping hand to other dancers who need aide.

“I started a program called “Swans For Relief,” that brings COVID relief efforts to funds to dancers globally,” Copeland said. “And I brought in 32 ballerinas from 14 countries and we came together to bring awareness and be able to help dancers in need right now financially.”

To find out more about the Youth of the Year program and BGCA, go to youthoftheyear.org.

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