Five Anne Arundel County teens have been nominated for the 28th annual Ed Casey Youth of the Year Award.
The five range from 14 to 17, with the youngest still in middle school and the older teens ready to graduate from high school in a few weeks.
Lisa Lindsay-Mondoro, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County, said the nominees represent a strong group of diverse teens who show the promise of the club's future.
"Though we come from a diversity of backgrounds, the Boys & Girls clubs connect us all," she said. "They're different persons because of their experiences here."
The winner will be named at a sold-out event Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza in Annapolis.
The award is named for Ed Casey, executive editor of The Capital from 1971 to 2001. It honors his efforts as co-founder of the county's Boys & Girls clubs.
Standing before a crowd for the second year as a Youth of the Year nominee is not the scariest thing Dyamond Gray, 16, has done. She is a breast cancer survivor after undergoing surgery four years ago to remove a tumor.
Dyamond, who won the Youth of the Year Award in 2016, lives in Baltimore with her mother and is a sophomore at Annapolis Area Christian School. After the school day ends, she participates in various programs at the Boys & Girls Club at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park in Annapolis and reads to younger members or — during the club's Power Hour — helps them with their homework.
"I like working with the younger kids on their homework," she said. "The coolest part is how much they know at such a young age."
She's busy away from the club, too, as president of the youth ministry at her church, Reid Temple AME in Glenn Dale.
She says her secret weapon is her mom, who works at the Annapolis police station. The past few years, her mom has driven her to school, then to the B&G Club and afterward home.
"We spend a lot of time in the car. It's a lot of sacrifice on her part," she said of her mother.
She's already begun college visits and SAT prep work. "My personal brand is not to settle," she said. She intends to earn a business administration degree at a school "with a lot of exposure."
An eighth-grader at Wiley H. Bates Middle School, Shamon Maynard, 14, goes to the Bates Boys & Girls Club daily. He finishes most of his homework during Power Hour, then participates in programs such a Healthy Habits, or Passport to Manhood.
His parents are divorced. A younger half-brother, Jayden, lives with his father and stepmother, Dennis and Tanisha Maynard. Shamon lives with his mother Sherlonta Sharps, grandmother Claire Coates, sister Ka'Sheen Hightower and aunt Shatia Day.
Shamon hopes to become a physical education instructor or athletic trainer when he grows up. He is a quarterback with the Pasadena Chargers football team and has been a member of a Police Athletic League team on the gridiron.
He was surprised by the nomination. "Being interviewed by the judges was kind of scary with three people asking questions," he said.
This year will be the only time he'll be nominated. His mother is in the Air Force and is being transferred to Hampton, Virginia, this summer.
Arthur Slade III
This is the fourth — and final — nomination for Arthur Slade III, a junior staff member at the Bates club. He has been a nominee each year of high school. The 17-year-old is a senior at Annapolis High School and, this time next year, he'll be a college freshman pursuing business administration and graphic design.
Profiled last year as one of The Capital's Teens of the Week, if he receives the award this year, he said, "It would mean I finally made it."
Arthur concedes he was nervous in previous years during the interview with the judges. "I practiced every detail and was a self-made robot," he said. "This year, I realized I have to be genuine and thoughtful with everything I do and say. It has to come from the heart."
He said the most important thing he's acquired from his childhood and teen years at the club are leadership skills.
"My mentors here have impacted who I am and continue to be," Arthur said, noting he'll miss the relationships he's forged with close friends. "But I realize it's time to move on, explore new places and meet new people on my journey."
Nominee and 17-year-old Annapolis High senior KeAsia Smith, is a junior staff member at the Meade Village Boys & Girls Club.
"I felt good about being nominated," she said, "but also nervous."
A former resident of Annapolis, she and her family moved to Severn as the family expanded. She is the eldest of six children, including a 2-year-old and 9-month-old twins.
In addition to her position at Meade Village, she has also been a junior staffer at the Bates and Admiral Oaks clubs.
Her plans include attending Anne Arundel Community College for a semester after she graduates high school, then transferring to Bowie State University where she intends to pursue a degree in health care, criminal justice or education.
Sydney Williams, 17, became a junior staffer at the Bywater Boys & Girls Club last summer, and works there during holiday and school breaks. She has been going to the club since fifth grade.
A member of the chapter's STEM program, she represents the club in meetings with the other chapters, and with organizations such as 4-H and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
She is a junior at the Indian Creek School and a member of the board of directors of Chrysalis House; she previously worked on its board of development. She is also Indian Creek's representative on the Maryland Youth Advisory Council.
Active on her school's varsity soccer, lacrosse and basketball teams, she has nine varsity letters and is on track to earn 12 letters by graduation.
Within the next decade, she hopes to hang her shingle as an obstetrician.
"I believe the Boys & Girls Clubs gives me a great opportunity to improve my skills for college, and reach back and give back to the community," she said. "Anything you want to achieve you can do, as long as you put in the time and effort to accomplish your goals."