Meet our 2023 Youth of the Year Winner and Nominees

At this year’s Hall of Fame, Youth Resources honored 16 area students who are working to make their communities a better place to live. If you weren’t able to attend with us in person, allow us to introduce you to our final nominees for the year and our 2023 Youth of the Year winner!

2023 Youth of the Year Winner

David Montero, Jr.

David is a senior at Harrison High School and the Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center. He was nominated by his counselor Ethan Browning with the support of the entire Harrison High School Counseling Department, and they had this to say about our nominee: “David is courteous, kind, honest and authentic. He is a visionary, a strategic critical thinker, possesses effective communication skills, and has been gifted with a creative and open mind; however, more importantly he is humble and understands the importance and the value of hard work that he learned from his family.”

David started a project at his local church for Latino families in the community where he teaches a class each week educating families about their basic constitutional rights in an effort to ensure they are not discriminated against based on their ethnicity.

David is a member of the Criminal Justice and Safety program at SICTC, and has had the opportunity to intern with the Evansville Police Department with Public Safety officer Sergeant Anna Gray. David intends to pursue a career in law enforcement after graduation. 

David swims for Harrison and plays varsity football, where he was awarded Academic All-City honors. He is involved with Young Life and the youth group at his church. He also serves as a student representative on the Board of Directors of our local Big Brothers and Big Sisters, where he is both a mentor and recruiter.

Youth of the Year Nominees

Alexa Cecil

Alexa is a senior at Castle High School. After watching her grandmother battle cancer twice, Alexa wanted to find a way to help, and developed Chemo Patient Blessing Bags, which she donates to our local Chemo Buddies organization. To date, Alexa’s project has donated more than 175 bags – containing over $125 in cancer support items in each – that are given to patients on the first day of treatment. In the Chemo Patient Blessing Bags you are likely to find: lip balm, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, a soft toothbrush, sensitive toothpaste, hard candy, dry mouth products, fuzzy socks, gloves, soft blankets, ink pens, bendy straws, puzzle books, motivational journals, tumblers, restaurant coupons and gift cards, thinking of you cards from area youth, and anything that puts a smile on a patient’s face!

According to her mom and nominator, Kenda Cecil, Alexa works hard to think of and include others. Service and volunteerism is just part of who Alexa is. 

Outside of her work in the community, Alexa is a 10-year member of Warrick County 4-H, a member of Castle’s Show Choirs, and a lifelong member of Immanuel Lutheran, among many other activities.

If you’d like to support Alexa’s project Chemo Patient Blessing Bags, please check out their Facebook page of the same name.

Nathaniel Dillman

Nathaniel is an eighth grader at Perry Heights Middle School where he is an A Honor Roll student and a positive example to his classmates. He is an accomplished student athlete. Nathaniel wrestled for Mater Dei for 8 years, has played on various baseball teams, and played EJFL football. Presently, he wrestles and plays on Reitz feeder football and lacrosse teams. Nathaniel’s great-grandmother, Mary Winnecke, who nominated him for Youth of the Year, says Nathaniel is caring, considerate, polite, and a great older brother to his siblings. 

Delaney Garland

Delaney is a senior at EVSC’s Early College High School. Wendy McNamara, her principal and nominator, said it is rare to find someone with as much talent, initiative, and drive that Delaney exhibits. Delaney has proven that she has what it takes to be a true leader and a scholar. 

Delaney is instrumental in every group she is a part of. She makes everyone feel included and unites her peers through her leadership; which was apparent when Delaney was chosen as the first president of Early College’s new Student Council. When Delaney is confronted with a challenge, she always faces it head-on with a positive attitude and full dedication. Some other activities Delaney has been involved in include YR’s Teen Advisory Council and Vanderburgh County Teen Court programs, Mock Trial – where she was team captain, and National Honor Society.

Carly Gist

Carly is a senior at Bosse High School. Carly was nominated by Bosse’s guidance counselor, Kathy Heidorn, for being an exceptional student athlete and a leader and team player both on and off the field. 

Carly regularly volunteers at Albion Fellows Bacon Center by playing her violin at events and helping with their annual food drive. While being an excellent student, Carly still finds time to lead and serve. She is captain of Bosse’s swim team, Kiwanis winner for swim and soccer, a member of National Honor Society, and involved in YR’s Teen Advisory Council. She volunteers in the counselors’ office at Bosse and is always willing to help others however she can.

Sophie Golday

Sophie is an eighth grader in EVSC’s Virtual Academy. Sophie was nominated by Jaimie Sheth, the president of the JD Sheth Foundation. Jaimie said she has never met a child who is as passionate for her community as Sophie. Jaimie added: “Sophie doesn’t just volunteer and donate, she is an advocate for the underserved population of Evansville, the marginalized communities, those who are experiencing homelessness, the elderly, and children.”

After volunteering with the JD Sheth Foundation to help organize EVSC Hanger’s “store” for children, Sophie realized that not all kids in the EVSC school system have access to necessary hygiene products. She decided to do something about that. She applied to the JD Sheth Foundation’s Youth Community Changers grant and was granted the $500 for this project. She didn’t stop there though. She wanted to help as many children as she could so she fundraised over $1,000 more to create 290 hygiene bags, which contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and body wash). Sophie and her mom purchased reusable backpacks, stuffed them with the hygiene items, and donated them to EVSC Hangers to help support her peers. As Jaimie says: “Sophie learned of a need, she derived a solution, she put an action plan together, and she did the work. That is who she is.”

Sophie was recoginzed as ‘Advocate of the Year’ by Aurora Evansville in 2022 and was 44 News’ Hometown Hero in 2023.

If you’d like to support Sophie’s service and leadership, please check out her Facebook page, “Spreading Kindness with Sophie”.

Luke Kessler

Luke is a junior at Reitz Memorial High School. His mother and nominator, Amy Kessler, said Luke’s strength as a leader is in his personality that draws people to him. He can be fun and silly, which breaks down walls and makes everyone comfortable. Luke has exceptional work ethic and a helpful disposition. He likes to try new things and he is always willing to help others. Luke is involved in YR’s Teen Advisory Council and TEENPOWER programs, and holds leadership roles within each. At Memorial, he is involved in Tiger Pride and plays baseball and tennis. He also serves and volunteers as an usher at his church.

Elle King

Elle King is a sophomore at Reitz Memorial High School. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Elle developed a teaching tool for younger Girl Scouts for Pediatric Mental Health Awareness. She met with local leaders in the field, interviewed, and took the resources available to create her learning tool. She researched the skills and tools that promote successful mental health and created a lesson plan to be used year after year to address pediatric mental health. Elle’s passion and dedication to mental health awareness has been recognized by Memorial’s Youth First social worker and area leaders.

Her mother and nominator, Michelle King, added: “Elementary and middle school students are an underrepresented population in mental health discussions. The age groups Elle is reaching through her learning tool are at critical moments in their adolescent development. The foresight to develop this program to represent these age groups is commendable, especially as Elle is an adolescent herself.” 

Outside of Girl Scouts, Elle is a high honor student and participates in color guard, pep band, archery, 4H, and Latin Club. Her career goal is to become a clinical psychiatrist.

Markie Lance

Markie is a senior at Boonville High School. Her 4 nominators, Emily Strahle, Jennifer Bufkin, Teresa Scott, and Karen Lance, praised Markie’s positive attitude, hard work, and kindness. Ms. Strahle said “Markie is genuine GOLD through and through. Markie makes an impact by giving her time, but it is not just time that matters. It is the quality of time spent that makes the difference when Markie is volunteering. Markie’s genuine caring nature makes every person around her smile more and strive to do better. She has the natural ability to lead people in a direction where they want to make the world a better place, not because of her, but because of the fire she lights within them.”

As a freshman Markie jumped right into fundraising for the Boonville High School Riley Dance Marathon. She set up several give back nights and worked hard over the next several years to boost our community donations. As a senior she took it to a new level. She took the initiative on her own to send personal letters to her friends and family telling them about the Dance Marathon and what it means to her to give back to Riley families. Over the next month nearly $2,000 was delivered in care of Markie’s name.

Markie volunteers with Studio Bee Community Center, Warrick Co. 4-H, Mini 4-H, YMCA Diamonds program, the Play for Kate Tournament, Flare on the Square, Evansville Rescue Mission’s Gobbler Gathering, many canned food drives, and the Chandler Lions Club Blood Drive. She was the 2022 Warrick County Fair Queen, where she participated in all fair activities, local parades, and additional community events and served as a role model for young girls all over Warrick County.

Ellison McCormick

Ellison is a seventh grader at Corpus Christi School. According to her nominator and teacher, Abby Coudret, “Ellison is a role model to her peers and everyone around her, and she never hesitates to help someone in need. I have Ellison in class four times a week, during those times I am lucky enough to witness many of these moments of leadership. Ellison is respectful to her teachers, she is a kind friend, and is a wonderful leader forthe younger students at our school. There is not a single student at Corpus Christi School that does not know Ellison’s name and know the wonderful reputation that she upholds on a daily basis.”

Ellison helped write Corpus Christi’s Make A Difference Grant to Youth Resources.Through their grant project, they were able to help 50 families in our community by making them dinner. Not only did Ellison help facilitate the funding of this project, but she volunteered her time after school to make the meals and help deliver them.

In her free time, Ellison volunteers in our community by being an active member of TEENPOWER and Family Council. She volunteers at church and helps babysit at school Booster Club meetings. She also plays volleyball.

Gavin McMinn

Gavin is a senior at Reitz Memorial High School. He was nominated by his friend Carson Parks, who said: “Gavin makes an impact on people everywhere he goes. In school, he is constantly encouraging people to get involved, especially in Youth Resources’ programs. He builds others up, even if he isn’t feeling the best himself. Personally, Gavin has pushed me out of my comfort zone on many levels. I have become a better person because of him, socially and academically.”

This year, Gavin led the renewal of Snowflake, a day-long retreat for 5th-8th graders from Memorial feeder schools that hadn’t been held in years. The retreat was staffed by a team of high school students, led by Gavin, and focused on healthy decision-making, living a substance-free lifestyle, and mental health awareness. Over 200 feeder school students attended the event. 

Carson added: “I was a volunteer at Snowflake and admire the amount of hard work that Gavin put into it. The retreat had a huge impact on all of the younger students and the volunteers, and they all had an amazing time. This event would not have been as impactful or enjoyable if it had not been for Gavin’s positive attitude and true passion for helping others.”

Lillian Traylor

Lillian is a junior at Mater Dei High School. Her nominator and teacher, Jenna Kunkler, said: “Lillian is hard working, motivated, positive, determined and genuinely someone you want to be around. Her personality sets her apart from other leaders her age. She has a way of drawing people in and making them smile. Her positive energy is contagious and people enjoy being around her. Her ability to be true to herself makes her stand out as a leader.”

Lillian is a multi-sport athlete in cross country, swimming, and softball. In addition to working hard in the classroom and being involved in sports, she still finds time to be on Student Council, help with Pep Club, serve as a peer mediator, and be involved in National Honor Society. She is also a member of Youth Resources’ Teen Advisory Council and TEENPOWER Youth Staff.

With a TEENPOWER grant from Youth Resources, Mater Dei hosted a volleyball and game night for students. Ms. Kunkler said Lillian was a tremendous asset throughout the whole process. She added: “We don’t have a designated president for our TEENPOWER Club, but Lillian stepped up for this project. Any time we had a meeting, Lillian was always the first one there. She volunteered to take notes, to reach out to students who weren’t there, to make fliers for our event, and to pick up pizzas the night of. Last year we had six teams sign up to play and this year we had twelve. Much of the success of the event was due to Lillian’s hard work.”

Mayoni Watkins

Mayoni is a senior at Bosse High School. Her nominator, Latrecia Robertson, is the DIAMONDS coordinator at the YMCA. She said about Mayoni: “It is very rare that one young lady has all the attributes of the DIAMONDS acronym, but Mayoni is a Determined, Intelligent, Active, Mature, Outstanding, Noble, Dedicated Sister. She has an outstanding personality, strong leadership skills, and a caring attitude toward all people.”

When Mayoni found out that members of one of Ms. Robertson’s high school groups were having problems valuing themselves, solving conflicts, keeping their grades up, and respecting others, Mayoni asked if she could speak to the group and offer an older peer’s point of view. She wanted to encourage them and help them shift their perspective about their present lives and their futures. When she spoke, the group received her, listened to her, and committed to making better choices.

Mayoni also serves her community by preparing desserts every month for United Caring Services, and she is an ever-present role model for the young women in DIAMONDS.

Mayoni is a Certified Nursing Assistant pursuing a career in nursing. She chose this field in order to help other people who struggle with disabilities. 

Aralyn West

Aralyn is a first grader at Newburgh Elementary School. In January, Aralyn came home and asked if she could donate her hair to help sick children who needed it more. Her mom helped her set up the appointment, and Aralyn donated 14 inches of her hair to Wigs For Kids. At school, other kids have told her they want to do the same because of her excitement to help. 

Aralyn takes walks around her neighborhood cleaning up trash she sees along the road or yards. Aralyn built bird houses with her family and planted flowers and trees in their area. She believes in a clean world and the safety of animals as well as people.

According to her mom and nominator, Kerry West, Aralyn’s compassion for others is her best quality. Aralyn has stood up to bullies in her school and on her bus for not only herself, but others too. She’s adamant that each person she knows, whether it’s friends, family, or a new friend, knows she cares for them.

Patrick Williams

Patrick is a senior at Mater Dei High School. His teacher, Allison Garrard, described him as “The type of person to volunteer when no one else will and the student that goes out of his way to include a peer that is feeling left out. He is such a giving person and always puts the needs of others in front of his own. By volunteering at his parish and throughout his community, he has helped to make the lives of others brighter. When I think about Patrick, I think of someone who genuinely cares about others and his community. He doesn’t volunteer or get involved in a club because it looks good on paper or to impress someone, he truly does it to make a difference.”

Patrick took the lead on his school’s food drive for the 14 News Sunrise School Spirit competition in September and bought 6,292 pounds of food for the Tri-State Food Bank with the money that was raised. Patrick is an avid volunteer, a leader within YR’s Teen Advisory Council, and President of the National Honors Society at his school. 

This past weekend, Patrick’s Teen Advisory Council committee hosted the first TAC Sand Volleyball Tournament since 2012, and welcomed 100 students to the Dunigan YMCA for an afternoon of fun. As co-chair of the committee, Patrick led all aspects of the event, from the initial planning stages to soliciting sponsors to recruiting teams.

Jayden Wiseman

Jayden is an eighth grader at Castle North Middle School. She was nominated by Keli Fodge, a Castle North staff member, because Jayden goes out of her way to see that everyone around her has what they need to be successful in the classroom.

During Jayden’s science class, she is especially helpful to a fellow student who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She jumps in to help him feel successful and makes sure he understands the work at hand. Ms. Fodge added: “The class is very difficult for the student and Jayden makes him feel so good about the work he is doing. The other student loves working with Jayden and trusts her. She has never been requested to provide help to him, she does it because she wants to see him be successful. Most teenagers her age do not display this type of maturity. Because of the care Jayden has shown him, other students now understand better how to interact with him and they approach him to have conversations and high fives now. He smiles a lot more because of the care and respect she has shown him.”