MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Oakland High School senior Brooklyn Goolesby addressed her peers and an attentive crowd at the annual Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County Youth of the Year luncheon on Saturday.
She spoke about being one of five siblings raised by a single mom and recalled painfully losing her sister and "best friend" to a foster home.
Goolesby says she admittedly had a tough relationship with her mother, Sharon Goolesby, at one time, but being involved in the Boys and Girls Club helped her forge ahead and "walk the right path."
On Saturday, Goolesby received the ultimate honor when she was selected as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County Youth of the Year.
"It is my second family," Goolesby said of the Boys and Girls Clubs. "They've always been there for me when others weren't. It really means a lot to me.
"It's a great feeling winning this award. It's a great feeling being looked up to by the children. They see me, look up to me and they know about my character. It makes me really happy and I'm so happy I got it."
Goolesby was one of six finalists who earned the nomination for their service to the community, academics and involvement with the club.
The other finalists were: Mario Brown, 18, of Siegel High School; Melia Carter, 16, of Smyrna High School; Miracle Dyson, 16, of Oakland High School; Destini Pitts, 15, of Smyrna High School; Tiphani Pitts, 17, of Smyrna High School.
"This is for kids ages 14-18 and it's part of our national program," said Kelly Davis, operations director for the clubs. "It's based on what they've done in their community, not just at our clubs. It entails their extra curricular activities, their school and the club. The top candidates are selected and they actually go through a judging contest."
Each candidate wrote an essay, interviewed with judges and gave a speech on Saturday morning. The winner was announced at the annual lunch.
"I'm very, very proud of her," Sharon Goolesby said of her daughter. "It means a lot because as a single mom you don't ever know if you're doing right. You just hope your doing right, and this shows she is on the right path. She makes me so proud."
Michelle Clifford, marketing and special events director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County, said the annual lunch if one of the organization's highlights of the year.
"This is one of our premier events," Clifford said. "If you ask any staff member they will tell you it is their favorite event.
"It's just an exciting time because these kids have been with us such a long time, and it's exciting to see the types of young men and women they have become. It means a lot to us and it's means a lot to them."
Brooklyn Goolesby encouraged parents to get their children involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs.
"The Boys and Girls Club really helps you," she said. "They are never negative. They are always positive. They put you on the right path. They put me on the right path. Every kid is welcomed, and it's just a great place for kids. It's such a positive atmosphere to be a part of. It really is a second home and family."