Nashua South senior named Youth of the YearBy BENJAMIN C. KLEIN
Union Leader Correspondent March 29. 2013 1:27AM
NASHUA - Nashua High School South senior DaShawna Bourgault was named Youth of the Year by the Greater Nashua Boys and Girls Club at a ceremony Wednesday night designed to honor community leaders both past and present.
While NFL defensive end Kendall Reyes was one of five adults named to the organization's Hall of Fame, Bourgault was one of the three finalists chosen from a group of 12 children. Along with Bourgault, the two other finalists nominated for the award were Sylvia Gitonga, a 16-year-old sophomore at South, and Hector Collazo, a 17-year-old junior at South.
As the winner, DaShawna will get to compete against six other teenagers from throughout the state for the chance to be named Youth of the Year for all of New Hampshire. If she wins the state honor, she would then compete nationally and have a chance to meet President Barack Obama.
Norm Bouthilette, chief executive officer for the Greater Nashua Boys and Girls Club, said: "We are excited to have DaShawna represent our Boys and Girls Club. She has overcome tremendous challenges in her life and appreciates what the club has provided her in helping to move forward. She comes to the club daily and is actively involved in so many opportunities that we have."
Along with her mother, DaShawna invited her high school librarian Sharon Flesher and guidance councilor Nancy Duffy to attend, something Duffy said they were all too happy to do.
"She is a wonderful person," Duffy said.
DaShawna lives in a public housing project near the club along with her mother's boyfriend, 14-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister. She said she was not expecting to win and was in a state of disbelief when her name was called.
"That has meant the world to me, and with this honor, I plan on giving back everything I have gotten (from the Boys and Girls Club) times 10. I owe it to the Nashua Boys and Girls Club to go to states and win," she said.
Being in the Boys and Girls Club since she was 6, DaShawna said that without its support, she is not sure if she would have reached the same level of success.
"The Boys and Girls Club has helped so many people but also me personally. They have been my backbone, giving me opportunities I would have never had, going to Celtics and Bruins games, going to the White House and Washington D.C., and even Texas."
Beyond the trips, DaShawna said the club helped her family when her mom needed extra support. When she would get down, DaShawna said, "club members and staff pushed me and told me to keep going,"
Despite experience with public speaking, most of which came through the Boys and Girls Club, DaShawna said she had a hard time keeping her composure when she heard her name called as the winner.
"I had to hold in all that emotion. I was so happy, but I didn't scream on stage," she said.