LAWRENCE | Trei Dudley says she has found a haven with the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.
"The people and the staff, they were always letting you know that you could do anything," said Dudley, a ninth-grader at Central Junior High School. "It's just being around people that are honest and good role models."
Now Dudley is the Kansas Youth of the Year for the community organization.
She wrote eight essays, went through an interview process and had to give a speech at both the local and state level.
She came through victorious at both.
"I started crying," Dudley said when she heard her name being announced as the state winner. "I was really excited and proud of myself and was very thankful and blessed."
Dudley said she didn't expect to win state, but those who work with her at the EDGE After School program at Central would have been more surprised if she wasn't chosen.
"Trei is a fabulous, fabulous student," said EDGE coordinator Laura Leonard. "She is one of the most responsible and mature youth that I have ever worked with. It's very apparent Trei knows who she is and where she wants to go."
Dudley joined the Boys and Girls Club in first grade and has been an active member and volunteer since.
Dudley gets a $1,000 scholarship along with her state title. She will represent Kansas at the regional level, and if she wins there, it's off to Washington, D.C., for nationals. The national winner is presented a $15,000 scholarship by President Barack Obama.
But it's not all about the money.
"Knowing that I made it this far and now I'm going to regionals is very exciting," Dudley said.
Dudley heads to Free State High School next fall and ultimately wants to go to college to get a business degree.
The Reader's Digest Foundation is the founding sponsor of the Youth of the Year program.