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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nashua South senior selected Nashua Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year

NASHUA – Until she heard her name called Wednesday night, DaShawna Bourgault was almost certain that she had no chance of being selected the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua’s 2013 Youth of the Year.

Though a formidable finalist for the club’s highest honor who is currently weighing offers from four different colleges, Bourgault climbed onstage and admitted her surprise. ...

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NASHUA – Until she heard her name called Wednesday night, DaShawna Bourgault was almost certain that she had no chance of being selected the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua’s 2013 Youth of the Year.

Though a formidable finalist for the club’s highest honor who is currently weighing offers from four different colleges, Bourgault climbed onstage and admitted her surprise.

“If you ask any of the staff they’ll tell you, I thought I did terrible,” she said of the final round of interviews conducted Tuesday. “I cried for three hours. I didn’t want to go to school or even come here tonight.”

But to Bourgault’s happy surprise, the announcement that drew cheers and prompted emotional hugs of congratulations put the icing on the proverbial cake for the 18-year-old Nashua High School South senior, who edged out fellow finalists Hector Collazo and Sylvia Gitonga to become the club’s 42nd Youth of the Year.

It marked the second year that Bourgault was a Youth of the Year finalist. She and Lizmar Espinal were edged out for last year’s honors by longtime member Paul Duclos. As was the case last year, this year’s finalists are all Nashua High South students.

Bourgault, who searched for words to express her gratitude and pride in being selected, now moves to the state level, where she he will compete against several other Boys & Girls Clubs’ Youths of the Year. The state title comes with a $1,000 scholarship from Tupperware Brands Corp.

Danelis Alejo is the most recent New Hampshire Youth of the Year from Nashua; she was selected in 2009 when she was a senior at Nashua High School South.

State winners go on to compete with five regional winners and ultimately others nationwide to compete for National Youth of the Year and the chance to earn more scholarship money.

Leading up to the announcement Wednesday, the three finalists took part in a question-and-answer session moderated by WMUR-TV anchor Melinda Davenport.

“There’s a lot that goes on in the selection of each of the 12 Youths of the Month, and then choosing the three finalists for Youth of the Year,” said club Executive Director Norm Bouthilette.

“It’s a real life learning experience for these young people, to put their packets together and be interviewed by six different people,” Bouthelette said of the process.

“Then the three finalists go through another round of interviews. It’s a very involved process.”

Facing head-on, and conquering, personal challenges is a significant part of the criteria on which Youths of the Year are chosen.

He or she must have a solid record of contributions to family, school, the community, and the Boys & Girls Club, endeavors that most all Youth of the Year candidates cherish as a win-win situation.

Bourgault, for instance, praised the club and its leaders for helping her “find my voice and the strength to always continue moving forward.”

Since she joined at age 6, staff members became role models, she said, and “have been her for me time and again.”

An 18-year-old senior, Bourgault drew applause when she told the audience about her college offers. Whichever she chooses, she said, “that’s where I will start the next part of my life journey.”

And wherever she goes to school, “I’ll be back. I won’t be gone forever. This is my home,” she said of the club. “This is where I grew up.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).