When Teryan Rucker was just 5 years old, he found a home away from home that kept him occupied after school.
Now as a senior in high school, that place — the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County — still holds the same magic it did when he first walked through the doors as a kindergartner.
“It was my getaway. I fell in love with the counselors,” Rucker said. “I felt like I was at home; they never treated me like I wasn’t one of their children.”
The love shown to Rucker by that organization continues to grow — he was recently selected as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year for Georgia. Before earning the state title, Rucker first won the Hall County Youth of the Year Award, an honor he’s won two years in a row.
At each level of the competition, Rucker and other contestants had to go before a panel of judges and share their personal stories about giving back to the community, their pursuit for academic excellence and how they’ve overcome obstacles.
“Part of (my speech) was a poem,” Rucker said. “It’s touching because I really got to put my true feelings in it.
“It wasn’t hard because when I’m down or anything I write poems. I think I’m good at expressing my thoughts on paper.”
After being a club member for 12 years, it may be easy for some to put those experiences on the shelf as a childish hobby, but Rucker isn’t most people. His dedication to service and appreciation for lessons he’s learned at the club, make it easy to see why he continues to rack up youth of the year awards.
“When I was young, there were people — the older kids — that I looked up to. And now that I’m an older kid, I see the little kids looking up to me,” Rucker said. “And I know that if I can be here, I might be able to make a difference for someone, like someone made a difference for me.”
Next up, Rucker will head to the regional competition in June where he will be vying for yet another title and a $10,000 scholarship. If he’s victorious on the regional level, he will have the opportunity to compete for the national title and an additional $15,000 scholarship.
After all of the competition is over, Rucker plans to attend North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C., on a full football scholarship.
While in college, he plans to major in education and said he would like to become an algebra teacher and football coach.