Boys and Girls Club of America Youth of the Year: Kiana Knolland

On Howard’s campus there are only a hand full of students from the sunflower state, Kansas. Among them is the Boys & Girls Club of Americas’ Youth of the Year recipient. Youth of the Year, established in 1947, is the Boys & Girls Club of Americas’ premiere recognition program.

This award acknowledges club members, promoting service, community and family. The organization also places an emphasis on academic success, moral character and achieving goals.

Kansas native, Kiana Knolland, 18, freshman, public relations major, competed for the award and was selected to represent and serve as the official Boys & Girls Club of America teen spokesperson, advocating for nearly four million Boys & Girls Club youth and all of America’s young people throughout her year upholding the title.

As national Youth of the Year, Knolland received $11,000 in college scholarships from program sponsor Tupperware Brands, plus a $50,000 scholarship from The Rick and Susan Goings Foundation.  Knolland also received the rare opportunity to meet President Barrack Obama and be in the presence of prominent political figures and well-known celebrities like Denzel Washington.

Knolland joined the organization when she was 5 and has been a devoted affiliate ever since. Knolland refers to the Boys & Girls Club of South Central Kansas in Wichita as a support system. “They were the family I needed when my mom had to work,” Knolland said.

            Knolland comes from a single-parent home and has undergone some serious trials throughout her time with the organization. “When she [mother] had heart surgery they were there, they were there every step of the way,” she said.

 Knolland also acknowledges that the Boys & Girls Club as a driving force in helping her discover who she was. “I developed the leadership skills that I needed through different activities at the Boys & Girls Club,” she said.

Knolland expressed her feelings of amazement and honor to be given the award and urged other youth to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them. “Find the things you love. Be determined and resilient,” she said.

As Knolland considered universities to attend she admitted Howard appealed to her for the diversity among students. “I love the culture here. It feels good to be in an atmosphere with people striving to be great,” she said. 


This article was originally printed in The Hilltop, Howard University's student newspaper.

InterviewsDeJanae Evins