HOBART | Katherine Hamer joined the Cedar Lake Boys & Girls Club six years ago to make a difference in the lives of those around her, and the experience has made major differences in her own life.
On Wednesday, Hamer, 17, took another positive step into her future as winner of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana Youth of the Year Award for the second year in a row.
An only child who lives with her mother in Cedar Lake, Hamer received accolades during the annual Youth of the Year Award dinner at Avalon Manor. She became the 35th Youth of the Year winner recognized by the Northwest Indiana agency since 1976.
The Youth of the Year Award recognizes teens for making outstanding contributions to their family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club and for overcoming personal challenges and obstacles.
A panel of five judges selected Hamer from a field of five candidates nominated by the directors of the area’s five Boys & Girls Clubs. The teens come from single-parent families or homes where divorce has separated parents, and all nominees have faced major challenges.
For the second year in a row, Hamer will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and will be entered in the regional competition. If chosen a regional winner, she will compete for other scholarships at the state and national level.
This year’s scholarship is sponsored by John and Marge Owens, of Crown Point, and Luke Oil. John Owens has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club board of directors for 30 years.
After graduating from Hanover Central High School in 2014, Hamer plans to attend Indiana University Bloomington with a goal of becoming a registered nurse.
“As a young person, Katie had no choice but to mature at an early age. She has a sense of financial responsibilities and takes many babysitting jobs, along with her part-time job, to help with household expenses,” said Cedar Lake Boys & Girls Club Director Kristina Balog in her nomination of Hamer.
“She holds qualities such as responsibility, leadership, honesty, patience, understanding and empathy for others,” Balog said.
Bill Masterson, publisher of The Times and chairman of the Boys & Girls Club board of directors, said the five award candidates were chosen from a field of 5,000 club members.
“This year’s winner is the 35th we’ve awarded since 1976. That's out of a quarter of a million students," Masterson said.
Masterson has helped spearhead the campaign to turn the former Tolleston School into a Boys & Girls Club that will replace the John Will Anderson facility in Gary.
Jordan Jefferson is the Hammond Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. Lake Station’s Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year is Kquerie Johnson. Zaniqua Patterson of the John Will Anderson Club is Gary’s Youth of the Year, and Jaylan Robinson, a member of the Katherine House Boys & Girls Club, is East Chicago’s Youth of the Year for the second year in a row.