The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley has named JD Lontok as the 2023 Youth of the Year.
Lontok’s parents enrolled him in the Boys & Girls Club in third grade at the Sierra Vista Clubhouse. In eighth grade he began attending the James T. Ventress Clubhouse in Newhall. As working parents, they were in need of a safe positive and affordable second home for Lontok and his siblings.
“At first I was really nervous to go to the club but I quickly made friends and connected with club staff,” said Lontok.
Lontok has been a club member for nearly a decade. He’s spent a lot of time at the club and some of his best memories were made on the basketball court.
“Club staff, like Ish, taught me about teamwork, perseverance, and determination,” he said. “Having a shared interest made it easy to make friends with the other club members.”
One of Lontok’s favorite memories is when the Boys & Girls Club team won a tournament competing with other Boys & Girls Clubs from around Southern California.
“The experience was exhilarating,” he said. “It helped build my self-confidence and self-esteem.”
His character on the court that tournament won him the title of MVP.
“This experience led me to try out for my local high school team and I became the captain for all four years,” he said.
Lontok, 17, is currently a senior at Hart High School and plays on the varsity basketball team. He also serves as Vice President of Keystone (Boys & Gils Club’s teen leadership club) and has his eyes set on nursing school in the Fall.
He is passionate about helping others through medicine. He has seen his share of health issues in his own family. His uncle suffered a heart attack and passed away at 35 years old. Lontok lost his grandfather to liver cancer.
“These experiences have taught me the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and inspired me to help others through nursing,” Lontok said.
Boys & Girls Club of SCV CEO Matthew Nelson said the Boys & Girls Club supports Lontok’s positive choices.
“JD is an inspiration. He works hard for his dreams and believes in himself and others. Whatever he does he puts his whole heart into,” said Nelson. “The best part is he always has a smile on his face when doing it. The club staff and I are proud to have him as our 2023 Youth of the Year.”
Lontok said he appreciates the support of the Boys & Girls Club.
“I’ve kept my promise to myself of making healthy choices and helping others by being involved in the Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “At the club, staff encourage me and others to make good choices, stay on track to graduate and teach us skills we wouldn’t learn otherwise.”
Boys & Girls Club of SCV Board President Matt Carpenter also offered praise for the club’s Youth of the Year.
“We are so proud to have JD represent the club this year as our Youth of the Year. It is very rewarding for me to see how JD has grown and matured into such a confident leader over the past couple of years. JD’s path is really indicative of how influential our club programs are in shaping youth in our community into tomorrow’s leaders,” Carpenter said.
Lontok was nominated for Youth of the Year by Leaders in Training Teen Director Ish Singh.
Lontok and eight other teens nominated by club staff across the SCV, interviewed with a panel of club board members in December. All nine club teens shared how they have overcome adversity, how the club impacted their life and shared their dreams for the future.
From that group Lontok was selected to represent the Santa Clarita Valley as the 2023 Youth of the Year. He is currently preparing for the Los Angeles County Youth of the Year selection process.
Lontok, along with 17 teens from other Los Angeles County Boys & Girls Clubs must submit three personal essays and participate in an interview panel. In April, at an event with the other Boys & Girls Clubs and their Youths of the Year, the L.A. County Youth of the Year will be announced. A similar process is taking place at the more than 1,200 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year program is designed to promote and recognize service to the club and community, academic performance and contributions to family/home life by honoring outstanding club teens as Youth of the Year at their local club. Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a club member can receive through the Boys & Girls Club.
Founded in 1968, the Boys and Girls Club of SCV helps local youth reach their full potential by providing a second home, supporting academic success, and building leaders. Clubhouses are located in Canyon Country, Newhall and Castaic. Membership is just $60 a year for the first child and $45 for each additional sibling (scholarships are available).
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