SALT LAKE CITY — Makenna Hill, a senior at Clearfield High School, was awarded the 2013 Utah Youth of the Year award Thursday on Capitol Hill.

“For years along the way, people will approach you and tell you that you were the inspiration,” said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who presented the awards. “Numerous lives will be altered by what you have become.”

The Youth of the Year award is part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a nationwide organization that helps underprivileged youth become involved through volunteer work. The winner of the award is given a $1,000 scholarship, provided by Tupperware.

“It’s the highest award we give to the youth in our clubs,” said Amanda Hughes, director of community relations of the greater Salt Lake club. “It recognizes them for character, good citizenship, academic success and community service.” 

The five judges said the task of choosing among such fine candidates was difficult.

“It’s tremendously hard, but we know they are all going to go off and do wonderful things,” said Dan Harbeke, director of Union Pacific Railroad, which contributes to the program.

Ultimately, their decision led them to Hill.

“All my life, I’ve been constantly moving — from schools, homes, friends and, worst of all, the loss of my childhood,” she said. “Refugee camps, reservations, ghettos — it doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s innocence lost, childhood dreams destroyed, futures uncertain.”

After Hill’s father was sent to prison for molesting her younger sisters, she became their caregiver at 8 years old while her mother worked two jobs to support her eight children. Hill took it upon herself to become the glue that held the family together.

The Boys and Girls Club in Weber-Davis helped her overcome her obstacles to make possible her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner. Maintaining a GPA of 3.9, the high school senior has volunteered more than 100 hours yearly on student council, worked as mayor of the Clearfield City Youth Council and on the Red Cross Youth Council.

“My future is clear because of my hardships,” Hill said. “Through long-lasting friendships, outstanding staff and life-changing experiences, the Boys and Girls Club has provided me with a desire to rise above life’s ugliness.”

Hill's mother, Jill, couldn’t be prouder.

“She’s such a good kid,” she said. “I’m just so proud. She refuses to let the pain of the past dictate what will happen to the future.”

Hill is attending Snow College in the fall.

This year, Nichole Martens, a member of the Hill Air Force Base Boys and Girls Club, was also presented with the new 2013 Military Youth of the Year award.

Martens spent much of her childhood moving across the country, as her stepfather was active in military service with the Air Force. For Martens, the program was a safe haven.

“The club gave me friends when I had none. It gave me purpose in my community, and it has taught me life lessons,” she said. 

Martens has volunteered more than 260 hours this year. She hopes to pursue a music degree at Westminster College or Weber State University.

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