When LarSharae Hooker first came to the LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club in Lindsay Heights with her twin sisters, she wasn’t happy about it.
“I was basically the type of person who didn’t talk to anyone,” Hooker said. “But the club gave me the resources and the skills to open up.”
Now Hooker, 17, is one of six Argosy Citizenship Award winners for 2011. Hooker’s project is to organize two workshops, including guest speakers, focusing on childhood obesity and personal hygiene. The workshops will be open to Boys & Girls Club members and the neighboring community.
The Argosy Citizenship Awards began in 2004, when the Argosy Foundation forged a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee to promote leadership and community involvement among neighborhood youth.
Each award winner will receive a $1,000 grant. Half will be used to implement a creative community service project. The remaining $500 can be spent on the award winner’s education.
“I was trying to think of something that people don’t address,” Hooker said, in explaining why she chose her two topics. “I’ve always liked helping people, since I was little,” she added.
Hooker plans to buy a laptop computer with the education component of her grant, to help her with her pre-college work. She’ll be a senior at Washington High School this fall and hopes to attend either Marquette University or Howard University.
“I know I want to be a lawyer,” Hooker said. “I want to help people who are accused of things they didn’t do.”
She remembers an attorney who presented a program at the LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club, 2739 N. 15th St. He helped her realize that as a lawyer she could fulfill her desire to help people.
The grant money for the Argosy Citizenship Awards is given to the Boys & Girls Clubs. The clubs then go through a process of soliciting proposals from their members. The judging is done on an anonymous, club-wide basis.
Jacqueline Zeledon, communications manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, is proud of the wide variety of projects that club members have completed because of the Argosy awards.
“One member did a book of poetry about teen pregnancy,” Zeledon said. “Another put together a family Olympics event.” And a club member performed a dance program at the St. Rose Senior Center on the south side.
The LaVarnway Boys & Girls Club is the oldest one in Milwaukee. It started more than 50 years ago and now has 1,600 members.
“The Argosy Foundation Awards are an empowering experience,” Zeledon said. “They show the youth they can influence the world around them.”
Zeledon noted that Hooker also is the Northwestern Mutual Foundation Youth of the Year for the LaVarnway club.