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BGCGC Youth of the Year advances to regionals after winning state

Lee A’rie Simms, The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast Youth of the Year, has won state Youth of the Year for Mississippi and will advance to compete at the regional level in June.

“I am so excited about the possibility of making it to the national level!” says Simms, who has been a part of Boys & Girls Clubs since the age of 5. “Winning the 2022-2023 Mississippi Youth of the Year title really built my confidence. I will be at the regional competition on my 18th birthday and am eager to compete and make long-lasting memories.”

Simms’s achievements as a club member include being named Boys & Girls Clubs of the Gulf Coast Youth of the Year for 2022, accepting multiple employment opportunities and completing over 100 volunteer/community service hours. Introduced to entrepreneurship at an early age, she started out as a helper with her sister’s event planning business, Big Baby Rentals, and is now the co-owner. She also is employed at the BGCGC Hancock County Unit as a window maker, crafting stormproof windows with a local inventor, Mark Issacs, in addition to being a junior staff member, where she develops important skills that will help prepare her for the future.

From left, Wanda Hilliard, BGCGC Hancock County Unit Director, Alex Treutel, Hancock Co. Board Member, Lee A’rie Simms, Crystal Scretching, Hancock Co. Board Chair, Christian Key, Former Youth of the Year Hancock County/Club member

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Simms’s family hard, and she lost many relatives while her mother spent three months in intensive care.

“She wanted to take the pressure off her mother and assist with her extended family for as long as she can remember,” says Wanda Hilliard, BGCGC Hancock County unit director. “She’s a helper and loves helping others.

“Lee A’rie is also a great asset to the Boys & Girls Club. She’s a mentor for the younger members, and she is able to fill in and help out in any area, such as the front desk, classroom and cafeteria to name a few.”

In June, Simms will participate in regionals in Atlanta, where she will compete for the opportunity to advance to the national level in October. The last time BGCGC won at the state level was in 2020.

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