The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley has announced JD Lontok as 2023 Youth of the Year.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year program is designed to promote and recognize service to the club and community, academic performance, and contributions to family/home life by honoring outstanding club teens as Youth of the Year at their local club. Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a club member can receive through the Boys & Girls Club.
Lontok joined the Boys & Girls Club in third grade. He is a senior at Hart High School, plays on the varsity basketball team, serves as vice president of Keystone (Boys & Girls Club’s teen leadership club), and has his eyes set on nursing school in the fall.
At 17 years old, Lontok is passionate about helping others through medicine. He has seen his share of health issues in his own family. His uncle suffered a heart attack and died at 35 years old. He lost his grandfather to liver cancer.
“These experiences have taught me the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and inspired me to help others through nursing,” Lontok said in a statement released by the club. “I’ve kept my promise to myself of making healthy choices and helping others by being involved in the Boys and Girls Club. At the club, staff encourage me and others to make good choices, stay on track to graduate, and teach us skills we wouldn’t learn otherwise.”
The Boys & Girls Club supports Lontok’s positive choices, the statement said.
Lontok’s parents enrolled him in the Boys & Girls Club in third grade at the Sierra Vista Clubhouse. In eighth grade he began attending the James T. Ventress Clubhouse in Newhall. As working parents, they were in need of a safe, positive and affordable second home for Lontok and his siblings.
“At first I was really nervous to go to the club but I quickly made friends and connected with club staff,” Lontok said, adding that some of his best memories were made on the basketball court. “Club staff, like Ish (Singh), taught me about teamwork, perseverance and determination. Having a shared interest made it easy to make friends with the other club members.”
He reflected on the time that the club team won a tournament with other Boys & Girls Clubs from around Southern California: “The experience was exhilarating. It helped build my self-confidence and self-esteem.”
His character on the court that tournament won him the title of MVP. “This experience led me to try out for my local high school team and I became the captain for all four years.”
“JD is an inspiration,” club CEO Matthew Nelson said in the statement. “He works hard for his dreams and believes in himself and others. Whatever he does he puts his whole heart into. And the best part is he always has a smile on his face when doing it. The club staff and I are proud to have him as our 2023 Youth of the Year.”
Board President Matt Carpenter piled more praise on the club’s Youth of the Year: “We are so proud to have JD represent the club this year as our Youth of the Year. It is very rewarding for me to see how JD has grown and matured into such a confident leader over the past couple of years. JD’s path is really indicative of how influential our club programs are in shaping youth in our community into tomorrow’s leaders.”
Lontok was nominated for Youth of the Year by Leaders in Training Teen Director Ish Singh. Lontok and eight other teens, nominated by club staff across the valley, interviewed with a panel of club board members in December. All nine teens shared how they’ve overcome adversity, how the club impacted their life, and what their dreams for the future are.
From that group, Lontok was selected to represent the SCV. He is currently preparing for Los Angeles County Youth of the Year. He, along with 17 teens from other L.A. County Boys & Girls Clubs, must submit three personal essays and participate in an interview panel. In April, at an event with the other Boys & Girls Clubs and their Youth of the Year, the L.A. County Youth of the Year will be announced. A similar process is taking place at the more than 1,200 Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
Founded in 1968, the Boys and Girls Club of SCV has clubhouses in Canyon Country, Newhall and Castaic. Membership is $60 a year for the first child and $45 for each additional sibling (scholarships available). To learn how to get involved in the Boys & Girls Club of SCV, visit www.scvbgc.org.