Selected among eight finalists, 18-year-old Malachi Haynes from Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver has been named the Southwest Youth of the Year by Boys & Girls Clubs of America. At the celebration event in Dallas, sponsored by the Walt Disney Company and Toyota, Malachi was presented with a $10,000 college scholarship renewable for up to four years, for a total of $40,000.

A member at the Boettcher Boys & Girls Club in Aurora for 12 years, Malachi is a shining example of how the Boys & Girls Club movement can help young people overcome obstacles and succeed in life. His perseverance, leadership and commitment to his Club and community were key to his selection as Southwest Youth of the Year. Prior to the competition, Malachi was selected as City Youth of the Year from metro Denver, and then Colorado State Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs Colorado Alliance.

“I am forever grateful to the Boys & Girls Club for having a Club in my neighborhood, and providing positive alternatives to how I spend my time,” Malachi said. “Life can change in an instant, especially for youth, and I thank the Club staff for allowing me to spend my ‘instances’ inside those doors becoming a better person – rather taking my chances with all the risks that unsupervised life brings. Being a Club member has saved my life in that sense.”

Malachi grew up in a neighborhood and community that often lacks positive role models and opportunities for youth. He witnessed former friends and neighbors make poor decisions, like joining gangs and engaging in violent crimes. After joining the Club, he was determined to become part of the solution as a leader that kids in his community could admire and emulate.

When Malachi learned that many African-American kids were behind their peers by two to three reading levels, he decided to take action. He created a program at the Club called “Double Trouble” to help motivate and encourage these kids while offering extra tutoring support. He and a friend at the Club led individual and small group reading activities weekly to work on comprehension. As part of the program, Malachi promised kids an hour of physical activity in return for every hour of reading and studying, hence the name “Double Trouble.”

“Because of the program, every single student improved their literacy level, and I noticed they began to look to us for guidance outside of reading,” he said.

In addition to academic success, Malachi is passionate about drug and alcohol prevention. He led a Red Ribbon Day through his Club, in which members made a pledge to abstain from substance abuse.

“I know it will take leaders to engage the community and help the members recognize the potential they have, and I plan to be one of those leaders,” he said.

A graduate of the rigorous International Baccalaureate program at George Washington High School in Denver, Malachi will attend Colorado State University in the fall and plans to pursue a career in kinesiology or sports medicine. While in school, he was on the honor roll every year since sixth grade and graduated with a 3.76 GPA.

In September, Malachi will travel to Washington D.C. to contend for the National Youth of the Year title, which comes with an additional $100,000 scholarship and the opportunity to serve as a spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, representing 4 million Club kids and teens.