Seymour High student named Tennessee Youth of the Year

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 11:58 PM

Seymour High School senior Ashley Heatherly won the Boys & Girls Club’s Tennessee Youth of the Year award Wednesday in Nashville.

Heatherly has previously won the youth of the year awards for her own Seymour Boys & Girls Club, and for the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. She will now also be eligible to win the Southeast Regional Youth of the Year.

“It feels absolutely amazing to be able to represent my club,” Heatherly said. “This is one of those moments that I’ll never forget.”

Heatherly said she was presented with $6,000 in scholarship money, $5,000 of which came from the Tennessee Titans Foundation and $1,000 from the state youth committee. She is a senior at Seymour High School and also attends classes at Walters State Community College.

For applicants, the competition involved a lengthy application, which included an essay about how the Boys & Girls Club changed their lives. There also was an interview process with a panel of judges, and three-minute speeches were given without the use of note cards.

“It all went by really quickly,” Heatherly said. “When they were announcing my name, I couldn’t even believe it at first.”

According to Mark Ross, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, the last time that the state winner of youth of the year came from the Boys & Girls Club of the Smokies was in 1996.

“We’re just all bursting with pride for Ashley,” Ross said. “She worked really, really hard and we are all just so happy for her, all the hard work that she has put it, it’s come to a celebration.”

Heatherly also works part time at the Boys & Girls Club as a membership coordinator. “Or, as we call her, the director of first impressions,” Ross said.

Eric Harper, branch manager of the Sevierville Boys & Girls Club and formerly the manager of the Seymour location, said that this is the highest honor that any club member can reach, and that it is a testament to the type of person Heatherly is.

“She’s the best young adult I’ve ever known,” Harper said. “I’ve known her since she was 13, when she first started in the club, and she’s always been very outgoing and gives back. She’s worked extremely hard for this, and I couldn’t be prouder of her. For her to win out of all these wonderful young people – it’s unbelievable.

“I can’t put it into words; she is a tremendous young lady with a wealth of potential. She will be able to accomplish anything she puts her mind to.”

Heatherly plans to get a degree from Walters State and then transfer to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She hopes to one day be a medical examiner.

Joining the Boys & Girls Club is, she said, the best thing that ever happened to her.

“It saved my life,” she said. “I owe every success I have to the Boys & Girls Club.”

jold@themountainpress.com