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Jefferson Co. Boys and Girls Club Youth of Year shares what organization means to her

The Journal

With a soft voice strengthened with passion and determination, Jefferson High senior Madison Higgs seems destined to set the world on fire, to be the spark that brings her dreams to life. As Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle, Higgs stood before members of the organization, Congressman Alex Mooney, his staff and members of the Jefferson County Sorry Souls Motorcycle Club to reflect on just what the organization means to her and the future.

Higgs was nominated as Youth of Year by her club and will be competing at the state level soon.

“If I were to ask my classmates and peers what the Boys and Girls Club is, most of them would answer, ‘A building.’ Four walls and ceiling,” she said, taking a powerful pause.

Continuing, Higgs rejected what she assumes most would say: “My club is sitting in Sen. (Shelley Moore) Capito’s office, having a genuine conversation with her. My club is supporting my teachers as they are fighting to be able to stay in a classroom to teach me. My club is participating in a rally at the U.S. Capitol, listening to senator after senator show their support on issues that affect the entire nation. My Boys and Girls Club is taking 10 younger girls camping. My club is consoling a younger girl who is having a rough day. What I want you to understand is my Boys and Girls Club is so much more than four walls and a ceiling. In fact, so much of my Boys and Girls Club experience isn’t even in a club.”

As Youth of the Year, Higgs is going through the process essays, interviews and speeches that will hopefully help her move on to the regional and national competition to represent the local entity. She was chosen based on the requirements of Youth of the Year: a member of the club for at least two years — Higgs being there six — a strong leader, a student with good academics and someone who has received support from the club as well as giving back.

Higgs explained that she first walked into the Boys and Girls Club the summer before seventh grade, realizing that she wanted to make a difference in her community. Soon after, her Girl Scout troop moved into the building when it lost its previous troop.

Every moment led up to Higgs becoming the young lady she is today, one with strong opinions, a desire to change the world for the better and a passion for helping those in need, especially the youth that walks through the doors of the club.

She recalled days listening about the problems in the kids’ lives, some being typical kid issues with friends or crushes, but others went much deeper.

“Then there were times I heard them talk about not having any food at home, how they didn’t sleep well the night before because of all the screaming and fighting. They were asking for help. At that time, I didn’t know how to help them. What I did know is that my heart was ready to take on the world of them.”

Being a integral member of the local Students Against Destructive Decisions club — serving as the president the last three years — and a mentor among the Girl Scout troop, Higgs started to be that leader she dreamed of being. She said she wanted to teach other young girls the lessons she learned through Girls Scouts and eventually SADD: independence, patience, respect and self-love.

“Usually, when you get to middle school, Girl Scouts isn’t cool anymore, so we had a lot of girls age out,” Higgs said. “There’s about three of us seniors that are left, and whole bunch of little girls. We’ve taken on the position of mentoring them, so instead of coming to a meeting and working on your journey or passion, we do that on our own time and do whatever the little girls want. If they want to bake a cake, we’re going to bake a cake. If they decide, ‘I actually want to earn a patch today,’ we’re going to earn a patch.”

And through SADD, Higgs has taken the opportunities to educate younger kids about making good decisions, thinking of times she’s spoken to middle schoolers about the dangers of Juuling.

“They’re going to fight you the entire time because, ‘It’s just water,’ but at the end of the day, you know what you’re talking about,” she said. “You’re been educated. You’ve done the research, and they haven’t. It’s also about gaining thicker skin because they think they know everything. It’s really frustrating, but you can’t give up. That has been an obstacle itself.”

Higgs also is an advocate through SADD about mental health awareness, especially when the pandemic has taken a toll on just about everybody.

“I’ve had the opportunity where I’ve worked the entire pandemic, so I haven’t been secluded,” she said. “But I have friends that haven’t left their house. It’s keeping everyone healthy and teaching others it’s OK to not be OK.”

Every step she’s taken through the Boys and Girls Club and subsidiary programs she’s involved with, every lesson she’s learned, every conversation she’s had has helped Higgs developed into the role model she is today, moments that she’ll forever be grateful for.

“I’m very thankful because I’m a very opinionated person, very headstrong,” she said, a smile creeping behind her mask to her eyes. “I can be all those qualities because I’ve always been that, but I can do something more. I can go out and educate my community. I can give a speech. I can sit with younger girls and help mentor them. If I did not have it, I would be any normal teenager, just hanging out, going to work, passing classes. It allows me to use qualities that are important, that make me me.”

And it’s with those outlets, those role models for herself that she will continue to advocate and be the voice for those who need her, continue to be the shoulder to lean on and the heart to make things happen.

“I realized I could make a difference in these girls’ lives,” Higgs said. “I want to be an advocate for change. I want to change the lives of those in my community, but my heart, my passion is to make sure kids have a safe and healthy life. I know I can make an impact just like my Boys and Girls Club has impacted me, beyond these four walls and this ceiling.”