Larsharae Hooker

Making Milwaukee Great

Tools

by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- A teenager who once described herself as shy, is now leading the way in the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee.

Larsharae Hooker was recently named Northwestern Mutual Foundation Youth of the Year. It's the top honor for the Boys and Girls Club.

"They taught me my problem doesn't define who I am. It's just an obstacle that I have to get over and make it in the world," said Hooker.

To start, Hooker had to get over her shyness. She admits when she started with the Boys and Girls Club five years ago that she didn't talk to anyone. But that changed when the club gave her a job working in the computer lab and she was forced to come out of her shell.

"You could be the smartest person but if you're quiet, nobody will know your story or what you're capable of doing," said Hooker.

Hooker's supervisors saw her potential and saw her eagerness to make a change in the community. They appointed her to a national steering committee and named her the Youth of the Year nominee from Augusta M. Lavarnway Boys and Girls Club.

"I think a lot of kids her age are probably just running the streets," said Larie Norwood, Hooker's supervisor, "I think she makes a difference because she is not doing what kids her age are doing and she actually really wants to make a difference."

Hooker beat seven other competitors from Greater Milwaukee for the Youth of the Year title in January.

"Larsharae's story is very inspiring," says Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee President & CEO Vincent Lyles. "Club members like her are able find their voice and build their confidence through the encouragement they get from our caring staff and from being actively involved in Club programs that instill the attitudes, skills, values and behaviors to necessary to succeed in life."

"Larsharae never wavered - even in the face of considerable adversity - on her journey to become an exceptional student, leader and role model," said John Kordsmeier, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

"I was happy because my voice can actually be heard now, not just in Milwaukee but all over Wisconsin," said Hooker.

In March, she will compete against 12 other Youth of the Year finalists for the Boys and Girls Club Wisconsin Youth of the Year award.

Hooker's high school is also taking note. She is a leader at Washington High School, where principal Tonya Adair says Hooker is competing for valedictorian honors and is the one many students look up to.

"She is standing out as a youth leader. One that really is inspiring others to want to do better, one that is really focused on getting into college and doing everything she can to make sure she makes a difference, not only for her family but for her community as well," said Adair.

Hooker wants to go get a law degree when she goes off to college next year and says she wouldn't be where she is without the Boys and Girls Club.

"I never knew what I was worth and what I was capable of doing until I went to the Boys and Girls Club," said Hooker.

For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, log onto http://www.boysgirlsclubs.org/

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