Celebrate Youth: Alyssa Coughenour

Alyssa Coughenour. Photo courtesy of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

Pinnacle High School senior Alyssa Coughenour will be honored as Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale’s Youth of the Year.

Alyssa credits the Club’s Thunderbirds Branch for teaching her the importance of respect — both giving and earning it. She aspires to attend Duke University to study public relations.

Alyssa will be honored at the Celebrate Youth Gala & Auction on Saturday, March 31, 2012, at Talking Stick Resort.

The gala is the Club’s premier fundraising event. Individual tickets are $125. The black tie event begins with a hosted bar at 5:30pm, followed by dinner, a live auction and the Youth of the Year Ceremony.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale provide youth development services that instill strong core values and life-enhancing skills in a safe environment. The programs help promote healthy lifestyles, good character and academic success. For more information, visit bgcs.org.

Alyssa’s speech

My facial muscles tense, my forehead wrinkled, I fixated my eyes on the inside of my eyelids. Moments earlier, they had been forced shut by an intruding red blindfold and the hands of someone whom I trusted. She twisted the cloth behind my head to ensure my blindness.

It was two years ago at the PROUD Lock In, a Boys and Girls Club event, and it was the single experience that embodies what I’ve learned about respect.

The first experience I can remember about respect was when I was Kindergarden. My name being Alyssa sounds similar to Listen, and so when the word was said through the microphone, I always perked up. Feeling like a clever Kindergardener, I realized Laura was not talking to me and I could keep talking during announcements. But the day Laura actually said my name in front of all my peers, I learned maybe I shouldn’t talk while others are talking- a basic rule of respect, but the foundation for what I’d learn in years to come.

At the club, I’d show up in my metallic purple pants and my bright polka dot backpack. I had an odd fashion sense back then, but not once did I receive a rude remark, not once did I feel weird in my purple pants. It wasn’t like that at school. At school, comments about my purple pants and poofy hair made me want to hide. It was when I got to the club that I could be myself and that I got respect.

At a young age, I learned how to respect others. However, it was the PROUD lock-in that taught me why respect was so important.

When I was blinded at the event, it only took me a few minutes to realize how dependent I was on other people. Being blind opened my eyes to circumstances other people have to live with, and I experienced first-hand what it would be like if I was not as fortunate as I am.

To this day, you’ll find the framed PRIDE Award, an award I received at the PROUD Lock-in, on top of the antique rollover desk in my room. It reminds me of the most important lesson I’ve learned in the past eighteen years- respect. People who respect others unique differences are proud of themselves for appreciating everyone regardless of their color, disabilities, or quirks. Thus, pride lies in respect, and respect, thanks to the Thunderbirds Branch, is something I have begun to fully comprehend.

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