Q&A with the 'Youth of the Year' from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region

Zaid Jackson, a 16-year-old Bay City Central High School junior, was named “Youth of the Year,” at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Zaid Jackson, a 16-year-old Bay City Central High School student, learns in April if she'll serve as a national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. (Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region)Zaid goes to Lansing on Wed., April 17 to share her story and compete for the state title. If she earns top honors there, she could be one of 10 teens in the nation to compete to serve as the National Teen Spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Before that happens, Zaid is excited that she will throw out the first pitch at the Great Lakes Loons opener on Fri., April 5.

No matter what happens at the state or national level, though, Zaid says her involvement at the local Club has already paid off by teaching her life skills.

Jennifer Freeland, Chief Operating Officer for the Great Lakes Bay Region Club, says Jackson is a leader in the club.

“Zaid is an outstanding candidate for Youth of the Year,” Freeland says. “She excels in the classroom while demonstrating outstanding character on a daily basis. Zaid is a true role model for our members.”

Question: Congratulations on your award! How did it feel to be named Youth of the Year?

Answer: I am so honored to represent the Bay Region in this competition. The Club has helped me improve in many different areas, such as public speaking, critical thinking, listening, and learning. The Club has also taught me patience and helped me through some of my toughest times.”

Zaid throws a football with a Club member. (Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region)Q: Can you explain your involvement in the Boys & Girls Clubs Great Lakes Bay Region?

A: My involvement in the Boys & Girls Club started out as being a member for about nine years. Then, almost three years ago, I became a Youth Development Professional. What initially drew me into the Club was seeing all the programs and so many kids. I saw they had parties and fun activities that I also enjoyed. What I got out of being in the Club was opportunities to get my name out there, learn new skills, and meet lots of new friends.

Zaid shakes hands with Board President Ty Mier. (Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region)Q: What does Youth Development Professional do?

A: A YDP, or a Youth Development Professional, is someone who plans and executes different programs and activities for youth. Along with this role, they also strive to keep youth safe and protected at any facility. 

Q: What have you learned in your time at the Club?

A: In my time at the Club, I've learned to be a better speaker, listener, and learner. I've also learned how much I enjoyed working with kids, and that will definitely be in my future. The final lesson I've learned is to be patient, include everyone, and put others' feelings before mine.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: My plans for the future are to hopefully attend the University of Michigan and study to become a forensic scientist. I also want to start a television show talking about forensic science and just the science world in general. I also want to teach high school students about forensic science and the different fields in science.

Q: Why do you recommend kids get involved in the Boys and Girls Club?

A: I recommend that kids get signed up for the Boys and Girls Club because it is a great place to learn new skills and meet new people. I met a lot of my friends through the Boys and Girls Club, and I know more kids can do the same. It is also a safe place that offers lots of help with homework, reading, writing, and spelling. The Club has a variety of different programs that include all youth and what they like.

Zaid poses with the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs. Club members embrace Jackson when they learn she has been named Youth of the Year.Q: Can adults do anything to support the Club or the members?

A: Adults are welcome to donate clothes, books, games, and even school supplies to help support our Clubs. Adults can also spread the word of our Clubs through schools, churches, and different clubs they may be in.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: The Boys and Girls Club is ultimately a great place for youth and gives many youth opportunities to be heard and feel a part of something. The Club also helps kids and encourages them to do positive things and shapes youth into amazing people in the future.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at editor@RouteBayCity.com