Free State senior wins Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year award

photo by: Jason Dailey Photography

Allie Martinez, a senior at Free State High School, hugs Susan Borchardt after Martinez was named the winner of 2020 Youth of the Year award on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

A Free State High School senior was named the Lawrence community’s top teen during a ceremony at Liberty Hall on Thursday.

After she gave an emotional speech, Allie Martinez was announced as the winner of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence’s 2020 Youth of the Year award, according to a news release from the organization. The annual competition honors a Lawrence teenager who embodies the values of the Boys & Girls Club: leadership service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles.

“There are no words to express how I felt in that moment,” Martinez said of being named the winner. “I’m just this kid who started going to Boys & Girls Club in third grade, and here I am now, a senior in high school telling a story about my life.”

Related story

Jan. 20, 2020 — Boys & Girls Club names finalists for 2020 Youth of the Year competition

A panel of judges interviewed the three finalists and scored their written essays and answers to short questions. Later, during the event, each candidate delivered an individual speech to the audience. After the speeches, the judges tallied the scores to determine the winner.

During her speech, Martinez spoke about how her “Try Me” motto tested her throughout the past year. She detailed how she suffered a fall at work, which left her with broken bones in her leg that led to painful surgeries and a battle with her mental health. Meanwhile, her grandmother fought her own health concerns and survived a car accident.

After winning, Martinez also praised the other finalists, Free State sophomore Akosua Danso and Lawrence High School senior Clay LaPierre. LaPierre spoke about his parents’ divorce and how it affected his life, while Danso explained how isolated she felt after moving from Ghana in western Africa to Lawrence.

“The first thing I thought about was how proud I was of the other candidates. I turned around to give them a hug as soon as I could,” Martinez said, according to the news release. “Watching Clay grow out of his shell and seeing Akosua be so powerful on stage, I’m just so proud of them.”

Martinez will now go on to represent the Lawrence community in the state competition, which takes place in the spring. State winners advance to regional competitions, and regional winners advance to the National Youth of the Year event.

Lawrence students have performed well in the state competition. The local organization has produced the Kansas Youth of the Year in five of the last eight years, most recently Ruth Gathunguri in 2018 and 2019.

photo by: Jason Dailey Photography

Finalists Akosua Danso, center, and Clay LaPierre, right, congratulate Allie Martinez after she was named the winner of the Boys & Girls Club’s 2020 Youth of the Year award on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.