HAVERHILL — Taliah Jackson had no idea she’d be taking up the torch for her friend Destiny Alicea, who was named Youth of the Year for two years running by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Haverhill.
Destiny made history in 2012 when she became the first girl in the club’s history to receive the honor, then in a back-to-back shocker she did it again last year.
This time around it was Taliah who was recognized for her unwavering commitment to the club, where she’s taken a leadership role and has become a mentor to younger members, many of whom consider her their big sister. But in return, she feels like she’s gained a larger family as well as a second home where she has blossomed.
“I’ve been able to grow and learn from the younger kids, and that means the world to me,” Taliah told a crowd of nearly 400 people who turned out for the club’s annual Banquet of Champions and Youth of the Year program, held April 8 at Michael’s Function Hall.
Destiny, who graduated from Whittier Tech last year and is now in college, joined the Haverhill Boys & Girls Club in 2010, a year after the club began accepting girls for the first time in its more than 100 years of existence. It was among the last Boys Clubs in the nation to admit girls.
Taliah, 16, an honors junior at Whittier Tech — where she is studying culinary arts, is only the second girl to be named Youth of the Year, the club’s most prestigious award.
In 2012, Destiny, then 16, took the award for her initiative, as she created a full-functioning bakery at the club. She took the award again last year for helping create a fashion show for the Keystone Club, a community service and leadership group within the Boys & Girls Club.