Strong as a rock.
That’s how Nola Payton, the 2019 DC/VA State Youth of the Year, describes herself.
Throughout her life, she has faced financial difficulties, hunger and frigid nights.
Payton shared her story at the 2019 Youth of the Year Send Off, which took place at the General Heiser Boys & Girls Club in Dumfries on Monday.
After her abusive father left and her home was foreclosed on, the teen found her security at the club.
“Rocks tell the story of how they’re shaped through intense pressure and extreme heat over time,” Payton told Send Off attendees. “Through pressures of poverty, I have become as strong as a rock, shaped by resilience, optimism, compassion and kindness.”
To assist with her family’s financial struggles, she took on a part-time job when she was a freshman in high school.
“I used my check to help with the bills in the house, but it was not enough,” Payton said.
Participating in the club’s Power Hour program helped her improve her grades, which had been impacted.
Through optimism, Payton has been able to comfort a friend when she found out her parents were getting a divorce.
Her compassion has enabled her to provide food to friends who were in broken homes.
“My club taught me the importance of giving to those in need, and to always remember to be compassionate,” Payton said.
Payton explained that she has learned about respect, self-love and kindness through the club’s Smart Girls program.
“My vision for America’s youth is that we all learn to grow strong and to have mentors to be able to guide us to our great futures,” she added.