Tommy Walls is heading to Washington, D.C., for national competition Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) announced recently that Tommy Walls, a four-year member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, has been named the 2010-11 Midwest Region Youth of the Year. He receives a $20,000 college scholarship from founding sponsor Reader’s Digest Foundation and Tupperware Brands, Corp. Selected from 12 other regional finalists, Walls will now advance to BGCA’s National Youth of the Year competition in Washington, D.C., in September. 2010 marks the second year in a row the Midwest winner has come from the Milwaukee organization.
Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. The title recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as personal challenges and obstacles overcome.
“Tommy exemplifies how Club attendance, participation and programming give young people a secure place to grow, be inspired and empowered,” says Jim Clark, president & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. “In addition to being the 2010-11 Midwest Region Youth of the Year, Tommy holds the local titles of 2010 Northwestern Mutual Foundation Youth of the Year for Milwaukee and the 2010 Wisconsin Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. We wish him the best of luck on his journey.”
For Walls, 17, obstacles are the foundation of testimonies. At an early age he decided that in order to survive, he had to become the leader in his family. Born into dire circumstances in Detroit, surrounded by mental illness, HIV and drug addiction, Walls made it his objective to change his living situation. And he did just that – after meeting Milwaukee family members at a family reunion, he moved to their city with an adult cousin to begin a new life.
Since moving to Milwaukee, Walls has made it his mission to not only make a difference in his life but also the lives of others. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, he is known for his enthusiasm, optimism and desire to help his adopted hometown. Walls is actively involved in community-oriented programs such as Peers with Impact and Summer of Peace Project. At the Club, he is also active in Upward Bound, a college prep program, and Keystone Club, a group that focuses on leadership and community service.
With a clear vision, Walls became the student that he desired to be at Montessori International Baccalaureate High School. He strived to help other students become academically successful, helping create such programs as Montessori Academic Achievement Program, which tutors incoming high school freshman, and Restorative Justice Circle Program, which offers an alternative to suspension and teaches students alternative ways to mediate conflicts. Walls also participated in sports as a varsity basketball player and was a member of the Student Governance Board. He recently graduated from high school second in his class with a 3.7 GPA.
This fall, Walls will attend Marquette University as one of its four-year Urban Scholars Award recipients. The scholarship program awards full-tuition four-year scholarships to financially disadvantaged central-city youth who have thrived academically. At Marquette, Walls plans to pursue a master’s degree in social welfare and justice with a minor in communication. His goal is to become a guardian ad litem, a social worker/lawyer that investigates children family situations and makes recommendation for their future.
In reference to his Boys & Girls Club experience and its impact on others, Walls says, “I want to be a role model and let others know they, too, can be like me.”
“Tommy and all Youth of the Year nominees are living proof that Boys & Girls Clubs across the country are fulfilling their mission of inspiring and enabling young people,” said Roxanne Spillett, president, BGCA. “We are most appreciative to the Reader’s Digest Foundation and Tupperware Brands, Corp. for their support of our Youth of the Year program and for helping Club members attain their educational goals.”
In addition to the $20,000 scholarship, Walls has collected $2,500 in scholarships so far. The National Youth of the Year winner will be awarded up to an additional $65,000 scholarship and be installed by President Barack H. Obama during a ceremony in the Oval Office.