Trei Dudley, a freshman at the University of Arkansas, has been named the 2012-2013 National Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Dudley was selected in recognition of her long relationship and involvement with the Boys & Girls Club in her hometown of Lawrence, Kan. Her selection was announced recently at a news conference and series of events in Washington, D.C.
“The university is proud of Trei for earning this prestigious national recognition,” Chancellor G. David Gearhart said. “And we are equally proud that, with many educational options to choose from, Trei chose to attend the University of Arkansas. She will serve as an outstanding ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs as well as a great representative of the U of A.”
An 18-year-old student in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Dudley is a 2012 graduate of Free State High School in Lawrence where she has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club since she was in kindergarten. “The Boys & Girls Club had a huge influence on my life,” she said. “Growing up, there were many obstacles at home that I was faced with.”
She said that being the oldest child at home she felt it was her responsibility to shield her younger siblings from some of the things she had seen and experienced. “I became the ‘mother hen’ once my mom became a single parent, and I did a lot of maturing at an early age,” Dudley said. “Because I did protect my siblings, I never expressed myself. But when I went to the Boys & Girls Club, I met mentors, Laura Wagner and Jen Williams, who made that easy for me to do.
“They listened whenever I needed to talk and always comforted me. I felt super comfortable with these two, and they helped me come out of my shell and express myself. Once I started working as a staff member, the club continued to influence my life. The different kids that I have worked with, some who have similar stories as mine, have really pushed me to strive harder in everything that I do to set a good example for them.”
Dudley also volunteered at a local community center in Lawrence, at church and at a soup kitchen. She was a certified volunteer for Family Promise, an agency that provides shelter, food and programs to help homeless families. At Free State High School, she served as a board member of Can We Talk, a group dedicated to helping at-risk youth. She also was captain of the cheerleading squad and editor of the yearbook.
She plans to continue to work with young people. After college, she would like to open a nonprofit organization that helps high school students prepare for and transition into college.
Walton College Dean Eli Jones said he was pleased with her selection and her decision to attend the University of Arkansas. “Trei is the kind of high-achieving, engaged student the Walton College attracts and the kind it has dedicated itself to educating as future leaders in our state and nation,” Jones said.
“Some of the goals that I have set for myself are simply to continue doing my best and being involved,” Dudley said. “I want to continue volunteering within my new community and do things that are going to better me. I will definitely continue working with young people while I’m in college, and the Boys & Girls Club of Fayetteville will be the perfect place to do that.”
Dudley received the National Youth of the Year award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., last month, where she attended a congressional breakfast on Capitol Hill and a news conference at the National Press Club with Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, R&B singer Ashanti and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.
“To me personally, being selected as the National Youth of the Year means having a chance to be the voice for those 4 million kids who are a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Dudley said. “It is a true honor and blessing to hold this title!”
As the National Youth of the Year, Dudley receives up to $61,000 in college scholarships and a new car.
She says she knew she wanted to move away from home when she went to college. Just not too far away.
“I chose to attend the University of Arkansas for a couple different reasons,” Dudley said. “I wanted to be away from home, but not too far because I know I am going to miss my family. I also heard about Arkansas’ amazing business program.
“And when I found out about the New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award Scholarship and was awarded it, I just knew this was the place for me!”