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Published: Monday, 5/17/2004

Ambitious Toledo girl, 17, is Ohio's Youth of the Year

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Monique Barbour, 17, of Toledo plans to attend Ohio State University in the fall. Monique Barbour, 17, of Toledo plans to attend Ohio State University in the fall.
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

Monique Barbour has been a role model for young people at the South Toledo Boys and Girls Club. Now, she is being honored by the Ohio chapter of a national organization giving hope and opportunity to disadvantaged youngsters.

Selected in April as the 2004 Ohio Boys and Girls Clubs Youth of the Year, she will teach other organizations about the club and raise money for it through speaking engagements.

"It's a very nice honor to have," Monique, 17, said.

More could be on their way. In late July, she will compete in the regional competition in Chicago, and could go on to the national level. But whether she wins in Chicago, Monique will have the satisfaction of knowing she is on her way to meeting her goals.

"I expect great things to come for her," said Cathy Fynes, the clubs' director of resource development.

In the competition, Monique gave a three-minute speech about "how I was going to break the cycle of underachievement that was around me by getting a good job to support myself and help out my family."

She decided to graduate at the top of her high school class, be the first person in her family to get a college degree, get a good job to support herself and her family, and encourage a family of her own to succeed.

Monique will graduate third in her class, with a 4.3 grade-point average, from Scott High and in the fall plans to study actuarial science at Ohio State University. As Youth of the Year, she won a $5,000 scholarship.

The competition recognizes youths' commitment to their family, school, community, and the Boys and Girls Clubs, as well as personal challenges and obstacles that they have overcome. When Monique was in junior high school, she moved in with her grandmother, who was dying of cancer. "I jumped into it because I knew she needed help," Monique said.

Helping her family in another way led her to a career goal. She took over the family finances when she was in sixth grade, helping her dad write checks and her mom pay the bills. That helped her decide to study accounting.

Monique changed her plans to actuarial science because she learned that more jobs would be available in that field.

At her school, Monique is the Student Body Government treasurer and secretary for the Distributive Education Clubs. She is a member of the National Honor Society, is on the academic varsity team, and is on the tennis team.

Monique has been a Boys and Girls Clubs member for 10 years, originally with the Homer Hanham Club. She said she moved to the South Toledo Club when she was 13 to be in a more diverse atmosphere, since the Homer Hanham Club is mostly African-American.

As president of the South Toledo Keystone Club, a leadership club for Boys and Girls Clubs, Monique served on two steering committees that planned regional Keystone conferences. She has worked on food, blood, and hygiene drives and fund-raising.

Monique worked at the East Club as a coat checker and will be a relief attendant, filling in where needed, at the South Toledo Club this summer. "The club has prepared me for the future," she said.

Kim Thomason, director of the South Toledo Club, said Monique is family-oriented, a good student, and friendly. "She has a great following of youth of different ages," Ms. Thomason said.



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