My name is Amy Princiotta and I am a ninth grade student at Gardiner Area High School. I was recently named the 21st Century Community Learning Center Youth of the Year for the State of Maine. I received this honor because I won an essay contest about afterschool programming.
As the Youth of the Year, I spoke at the Lights On Afterschool event last October at the Capitol in Augusta and a Nellie Mae luncheon this summer in Portland. Although speaking at these events was a little nerve-wrecking, it was (and always is) my great pleasure to share my afterschool experience with others, especially those who don’t realize how valuable afterschool programming truly is.
I feel that it is very important for every student to have a safe place to go after school. My place is The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner. I go there every day after school for many different reasons. I like the activities they offer, I like that I have a place to hang out with my friends, and I especially like the Community Learning Center (CLC) program. Before I came to the CLC, I had a really bad math phobia which made me stressed out about school. At school, I felt rushed and pressured to finish my math work, but my CLC tutor, Mrs. Graves-Leclair, always made time to help me. She let me know that she cared about me and not just my grades. The CLC has also helped me improve my grades and make sure that my homework was done correctly and on time.
The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner provides fun club activities and opportunities to go on trips. I am currently the vice president of our club’s Torch Club community service team. This year, my team and I walked for MS, made more than 50 quilts for a local nursing home, collected more than 100 brand new toys for the Salvation Army at Christmastime, and raised over $600 for a new porcupine exhibit at The Maine Wildlife Park. As a reward we were allowed to name the porcupines and spend the night at The Wildlife Park. I also participate in the Club’s horseback riding lessons, the swim classes at the YMCA, and now I am taking part in the Club’s CIT program, which will prepare me to someday be a staff member at The Boys and Girls Club.
When I grow up I’d like to do a bunch of things like teaching, having my own daycare, or any kind of job involving children. I’d also like to help others through community service. Someday I hope go to college and become a good role model to others, just like Mrs. Graves-Leclair and the other staff at The Boys and Girls Club are to me.
The staff at the CLC and The Boys and Girls Club have taught me to never give up, to always work hard, and to always be the best I can be. They've made me feel confident and they let me know that they appreciate me. I think that’s the best thing anybody can do for a teenager. I hope that what I've learned here will help me throughout my life. I also hope that by writing about my experience and speaking to adults who can make a difference, I can help more people realize how important afterschool programs are to kids like me and encourage them to be advocates for programs that provide a safe place for kids to go after the bell rings.