GRIC Youth receives Boys & Girls Club ‘Youth of the Year’

May 5, 2023


Emma Hughes 

Gila River Indian News



Nila Antone, District 4, has been awarded ‘Youth of the Year’ from the Boys & Girls Club of the Gila River Indian Community – Sacaton Branch. 


The Boys & Girls Clubs is the largest youth-serving agency in the nation, reaching about 90,000 Native youth in American Indian, Alaska Native, American Samoan, and Hawaiian tribal communities, according to its website. 


Nearly 200 Clubs throughout the United States provide Native youth with a variety of culturally relevant, life-enhancing programs each year, including the Boys & Girls Club of the Gila River Indian Community: Sacaton and Komatke branches.

Antone has been attending the Community’s Boys & Girls Clubs throughout her childhood and began working with the club’s Sacaton branch last year, where she taught art classes to the youth. 


“I’ve been with the Boys & Girls club since I was 8, as a member, and I continued going even after the [COVID-19] pandemic,” said Antone, “This last year, I applied to work in the art room and I’ve been working since then.”


She described the job as a unique and good experience.  She added, “Being with the kids is amazing, and watching them grow and helping them, it’s really amazing.”


Antone taught the kids art techniques and projects they could create at home while assisting them with reading and schoolwork. 


“I’ve done art for as long as I can remember,” said Antone. 

She credits her experience as a club member, “I’ve seen art staff come in and teach me things, so that’s what I’m doing for the kids, is teaching them things that I was taught; new techniques and just having fun.”


Before a panel of judges, Antone and other applicants underwent interviews and were scored based on their responses, discussion, and speech.  Antone was ultimately selected and recognized as the Youth of the Year.


Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be the National Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth as well as a voice for all youth.


“Nila is a very smart, talented girl who is always willing to help her peers and around the club,” said Jasmine Lopez, Sacaton branch administrative coordinator. 


Lopez recognized Nila’s potential and nominated Antone for the award.  “She is confident in everything she does and when she wants something she will do what it takes to achieve it,” said Lopez.


Antone was also allowed to visit and tour the State Capitol, where she met Representatives TJ Shope and Teresa Martinez. 

She plans to attend Mesa Community College for her general studies.  She would also like to attend Northern Arizona University to pursue a teaching degree and return to work for the Community.