Juliana Montel Submitted photo

GARDINER — Juliana Montel, a club Teen Center member and senior at Gardiner Area High School, has been awarded the prestigious Boys & Girls Clubs of America Maine State Youth of the Year, according to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley.

Since 2016, Montel has utilized the club as a place to seek opportunities and expand her abilities to grow and give back to her community. As president of her Keystone Club, she worked alongside her peers to volunteer more than2,000 hours of community services to local organizations to nonprofits as far away as Give Kids the World Village in Orlando, Florida.

As a club member, she has participated in several programs including the Counselor in Training Program, Dancing with the Staff, and summer programming along with her sisters Renata and Yana. She credits her club with allowing her mother to have a constant and reliable place her kids could attend while she was at work without having to worry about their well-being, according to a news release from the club.

“What keeps us coming to BGCKV has nothing to do with the ‘stuff.’ We love The club because it’s pure. It’s kids in their rawest forms receiving the love and comfort that all youth need regardless of their backgrounds, financial status, or unpredictable behaviors. At the club, we learn that our environment is everything, that we can be ourselves and be celebrated for it, that we can develop leadership when we once found solace spectating, and that we can create a family without even looking for it. The unbreakable relationships made at a Boys & Girls Club support us when we are weak and celebrate with us when we succeed. These relationships don’t stay inside the walls of The Club. They become the foundations of what will guide us through life,” said Montel.

Outside the club, Montel has maintained a 4.0 grade point average while leading her varsity volleyball team as captain, executing an involved role in the National Honor Society and guiding her peers as senior class vice president, all while maintaining a job as a Starbucks shift leader.

More recently, she earned the title as Afterschool Advocate for the State of Maine, working alongside student advocates from all 50 states and the Afterschool Alliance to address the nation’s leaders and representatives about the importance of afterschool programming.

Montel plans to compete with other Boys & Girls Club Youth from across the country in the Northeast Youth of the Year Competition in New York City on June 23, where the winner will be named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Northeast Youth of the Year.

She said she hopes to attend the University of Maine in the fall to study food science and human nutrition. She hopes to one day use her degree and first-hand experience of the importance of free after-school meal programs to ensure that all youth are food secure and have access to dependable, healthy meals every day.

For more information, email Holly Jordan, Teen Center Program director, at [email protected] or visit the club’s website, bgckv.org.