Kiara Flowers is the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware's 2024 George Krupanski Jr. Delaware Youth of the Year winner.

Clubs’ Youth of Year says kids need more mental health help

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Kiara Flowers is the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware's 2024 George Krupanski Jr. Delaware Youth of the Year winner.

Kiara Flowers is the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware’s 2024 George Krupanski Jr. Delaware Youth of the Year winner.

High school sophomore Kiara Flowers had to grow up fast, helping to manage the care of her six siblings when most children were worried about recess and or what video games they wanted next.

Having those responsibilities made her the person she is today and that, along with a slew of other positive attributes, helped make her the 2024 George Krupanski Jr. Delaware Youth of the Year winner. 

The Youth of the Year title, given to one person in each state’s Boys & Girls Club, honors a member who has displayed leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication while trying to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Now in its 77th year, the program is designed to encourage all kids to lead, succeed and inspire. 

“When I won, it took me a minute because they just called my name and my mentor, my mom and everyone in my family jumped up,” Flowers said. “It was very shocking, and my family was very proud of me… I didn’t know how to react, but it was a good feeling.”

The 10th-grader at Del Castle Technical High School in the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, aspires to pursue a degree in psychology and counseling. 

Her childhood was tough because her parents suffered from addiction and lost custody of Flowers and her siblings.

“Growing up with the amount of trauma that I endured, I’ve always been curious on how it affects me now and how it messes with your brain,” she said, “because I know that kids who endure trauma or go through trauma, their brain gets wired differently.”

Members of the Boys & Girls club nominate candidates for the Youth of the Year title. Those nominees then have to answer a series of essay questions on personal growth, club experience, what needs to change and more. 

“I had written about me growing up as a child because I didn’t have an easy childhood,” Flowers said. “Things weren’t handed to me, and I had to take on a very big responsibility of taking care of six kids that were not mine.”

Flowers also described how she’s been able to develop strong relationships with staff members and others who have helped her in life and mentored her.

If she could change one thing in schools right now, it would be to add more mental health services.

“Put more attention on mental health and kids in the foster care system and LGBTQ students because mental health is something that is very lacking, because there’s just not enough people out there to help,” Flowers said. 

She’d also like to improve the foster care system, she said. Based on her experience, it’s broken,  she said.

“I want to be a voice for those out there that are hurting or if they feel like there’s no one,” Flowers said. “I just want to be there for them.”

Delaware has 42 Boys & Girls Club locations, and 28 of those are school-based clubs. 

Flowers said she met her club mentor, Paradise Hayle, at the perfect time in her life. She was  struggling a lot and Hayle helped give her opportunities and teach her how to grow as a woman. 

Paradise Hayle and Kiara Flowers

Paradise Hayle and Kiara Flowers

Hayle said Flowers’ win was emotional.

“It was a bittersweet moment for me because I actually was her camp counselor when she was about 11 or 12 years old, and I can definitely tell that she has transformed into a different person,” Hayle said. “She still has the same bubbly attitude and such, but it’s just very different when you are able to be present and see a young lady really blossom from a child into an actual young lady.”

Hayle gave Flowers plenty of praise while also pushing her for more. 

“She has a lot of drive, I just sometimes wish she realized that,” Hayle said. “I think that sometimes things are put on her path and I think she allows that to block where she’s going to sometimes and it gets her off track, and I kind of just wish she would zone in and see the potential that she does have.”

Flowers is a  bright young lady whose future should be full of successes, she said. 

“And if she gives 110% in everything that she does, that’s how she’ll end up coming out on top,” Hayle said. 

In her downtime, Flowers enjoys listening to old-school R&B music, reading the Bible, journaling and coloring. She said she also likes going grocery shopping and spend time with her foster parents.

Some of her other academic involvement includes Capital One Coding, the Lego League, Girl Power, Bank of America Financial Literacy and Keystone Club

At Delcastle she is taking up medical assisting, has participated in track, is the basketball manager and is in the Leading Ladies club.

She’s also a member of Botvin, a substance abuse prevention program. Flowers said she’s happy to have the opportunity to share about prevention programs with other members of the Boys & Girls Club because of her experiences growing up.

Flowers won a $5,000 scholarship from The Sallie Mae Fund for winning the state youth award. 

Now she will compete for the title of Northeast Regional Youth of the Year in June and the chance for an additional $20,000 in college scholarship. 

Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C. in September 2024, to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. 

The national winner will receive an additional scholarship of $50,000 and have the opportunity to meet the president of the United States in the Oval Office.   

Flowers said she’d love to go to Howard University in D.C., but is also considering Shenandoah University in Virginia for their psychology programs and the University of Delaware if she stays local.  

“I want to help people who suffer with trauma and all that stuff,” she said. 

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