Youth of the Year learns lessons in state competition

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Zack Wadley traveled to Jackson to compete to be named Boys and Girls Club of Mississippi’s Youth of the Year in early February. He didn’t win the state title, but he did learn a valuable lesson.
“I took away that I’m really pretty privileged where I am,” he said. “Some of the kids that were there had stories that baffled me. I’m more appreciative of who I am now.”
The 15-year-old Oxford High School student and Chargers basketball manager was named Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, which serves youth in Lafayette, Lee, Chickasaw, Tippah and Union counties.
Seven years ago, Wadley went to the Boys and Girls Club in Oxford for a summer program while his mom worked at the University of Mississippi.
“I got interested and developed a relationship with some of the people there,” he said. “I kept going during the school year and kept going back year after year.”
Wadley said it was a place where he could serve his community and hang out. In the past two years it has been a big help with school work.
“They helped me learn how to study because I really didn’t have to through eighth grade,” he said. “I pretty much could go to class and then come and make an A on the test. In high school you really have to learn the material and put in the extra effort to make the grade you want to make.”
Lamont Watkins, director of the Oxford club, said Wadley shows leadership in the club.
“He’s deserving of that award,” he said. “He’s the president of our Keystone Club in Oxford and he helps out around the club with the younger students.”
Wadley said the state competition involved an interview process where he told interviewers about his community service through West Spring Hill Church and volunteering at his aunt’s soup kitchen in Clarksdale. He said it was a nerve-wracking process but fun at the same time.
“Me and my brother are very social in our community, so anything the elderly or anyone in the community need, we are happy to help them with it,” he said. “It’s not so much for the praise but the satisfaction that I helped somebody.”
Zack’s focus has changed from Youth of the Year to the state basketball tournament, but he said he’ll give Youth of the Year another shot next year.
jb.clark@journalinc.com