Toledo’s Ohio Youth of the Year heading to UTWritten by David Steffen | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jermey Hampton lived with extended family members across town and in two shelters while growing up after his parents separated.
But despite his changes of address, 2250 N. Detroit Ave. — the Boys & Girls Clubs (BGC) Homer Hanham Unit — was one address he could count on.
“Boys and Girls Clubs was my home because the one building I still had my foot in was Boys and Girls Clubs,” Hampton, 17, said.
His BGC lanyard and graduation key necklace have become a part of his outfit.
“He probably wears [the lanyard] everywhere,” said Director of Program Operations Shawna Woody.
BGC locations “offer building-centered programs targeted at disadvantaged youth,” according to its Toledo Web site. It offers a variety of extracurricular and leadership activities for children ages 7 to 17.
Hampton graduated from Libbey High School this year, sixth in his class. He’s the first high school graduate in his family, he said.
He earned a full ride to UT. UT’s Blue and Gold Scholarship will cover tuition, and the BGC Toledo Carson Scholarship will cover room and board, said BGC Toledo Executive Director Dave Wehrmeister said.
Hampton’s dedication to others also impresses BGC staff. When Hampton enrolls at UT this fall, he plans to work at BGC. Woody said he dedicates himself to the other youth. Rather than give orders, he mediates and educates, she said.
“He’ll talk to them and explain what it is they shouldn’t do, whatever behavior is unfavorable,” she said.
“We’re extremely proud of him,” Wehrmeister said. “He’s a great role model for all kids, and we’re happy to have him.”
Hampton’s leadership and academic performance impressed judges at state and regional BGC levels. He earned the title of Ohio Youth of the Year at state finals April 24 in Perrysburg. He continued to regionals on July 8 in Chicago and was a runner-up.
In addition to a written interview, Hampton presented a three-minute speech about what BGC meant to him.
He stood up donning his red BGC lanyard and recited the speech from memory. It came off smoothly, even weeks after his last presentation.
“The Boys and Girls Clubs have been and will always be my home, period,” Hampton said.
Hampton said his father’s influence kept his academic determination strong.
“My father was always like, ‘Go to school,’” Hampton said. “He never said, ‘Go to college.’ He said, ‘Graduate, graduate, graduate.’ That’s an influential part of what kept me going.”
Woody said she’s excited for his accomplishments, drive and dedication to others. She was an important mentor in Hampton’s life, he said.
“I am so proud of him,” Woody said. “I went to his graduation. Every time I see Jermey at different milestones, I could cry.”
For those youth who find themselves in challenging situations, Hampton said to consider his journey.
“I’d tell them, ‘Don’t give up,’” Hampton said. “It’s going to work out. Look at me — I’ve been through it.”