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CUMBERLAND â€” Lauren Kowalski, of Manville, has been named the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rhode Island Youth of the Year for 2013, and her position as the Ocean Stateâ€™s youth representative is especially fitting for a young woman with a wide range of aquatic interests.
Kowalski topped her six other Rhode Island competitors for the honor because she best exemplifies the awards requirements of extensive involvement in her local club, the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln, academic success, community service and much more.
And because she met all of those standards, Kowalski is heading next to New York City for the Regional Youth of Year competition on June 24.
â€śSheâ€™s really a great kid,â€ť said Tamara Burman, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln, of the clubâ€™s award winner on Friday.
â€śI think itâ€™s neat for her to win because sheâ€™s come here every day to volunteer, she is on our swim team and she is a swim instructor and swim coach,â€ť Burman said. And, while the Boys & Girls Club has had other local members in the Youth of the Year competition, Kowalski is the first Cumberland-Lincoln representative to win the state-wide honors.
Burman herself was a Youth of the Year for the club in 2003 and she was helped by Kowalskiâ€™s mom, Rachel, a former program director, in competing for the statewide honors.
â€śItâ€™s like this whole process has come full circle,â€ť she said.
After ending a swim class with youngsters in the clubâ€™s pool Friday afternoon, Kowalski admitted that she was quite surprised to be picked for the statewide tribute given the process of being interviewed by the judges and putting her qualifications up against the other qualified representatives of R.I. Boys & Girls Clubs.
â€śI love this club so Iâ€™m just really happy that I was chosen to represent the club for the state award,â€ť she said.
Kowalskiâ€™s mom, a guard at the ACI, was always supportive of her commitment to the club and would help her participate in all of her activities whenever she could.
In addition to volunteering at the club and participating in its Penguins swim team, Kowalski is also a member of the national honor society at La Salle Academy in Providence, a member of band, cross country and track, and also participates in a number community, church, and leadership activities.
All of that leaves her little free time and she always makes it a point of getting her homework and school studies done early in the day so that she can give her time at the club.
â€śMy mom is very understanding of my schedule, and she will help me with things because she knows I will be here and that I have a commitment here,â€ť she said.
The state winners in the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year competition all take home $1,000 scholarships and are also in the running for a $10,000 scholarship at the regional level.
The National Youth of the Year earns a $50,000 scholarship and is honored by the President of the United States during an installation ceremony.
Kowalskiâ€™s mom will be working when she travels to New York for the regionals in June but does plan to take a day off so she can see her in the actual competition on June 24.
As for her future, Kowalski was accepted to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy but made a â€śdifficult decisionâ€ť to instead attend the University of Washington in the state of Washington to study oceanography. Kowalski noted she has relatives there and that â€śmy heart was just calling me to Washington. There was no reason to it,â€ť she said.
A win at the regional competition would certainly help her along the way to college and Burman said she is trying to get Kowalski as much advice as a she can from past Rhode Island competitors to help her along to that goal.