UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County recently announced Union High School senior Masara Simpson as the winner of 2020 Youth of the Year. She was honored alongside the winners in the Buddie, Spirit and Junior of the Year categories at the Youth of the Year awards dinner at Galloping Hill Caterers on March 5.
Simpson was the only one of the seven finalists to come from the Union club. The remaining six were selected from the Elizabeth and Plainfield clubs.
“It feels unreal,” Simpson said in a March 16 phone interview with LocalSource. “There are some days when it feels exciting, because I have $6,000 which goes towards my college tuition. There were days after I won where teachers at school would stop me in the hallways just to congratulate me. It made me feel famous. It gave me 100 likes on my Instagram page. I continue to remain humble, because the process to get to where I am today was a lot.”
Simpson began attending the Boys & Girls Clubs in the summer of 2007. There, she found both a second family and new social skills. She began aiming for Youth of the Year after first learning of it as a high school sophomore.
The 17-year-old high school senior has participated in various programs, including the Torch Club, Stand and Deliver, and Diplomas to Degrees. She is currently president of the Keystone Club.
Under her leadership, the Keystone Club has participated in numerous service initiatives, such as food drives for the Community Food Bank, Breast Cancer Walk, and fundraising for Children’s Specialized Hospital.
“I’ve learned how to be a leader from the various programs I’m a part of,” said Simpson.
Simpson said she “learned to be myself” from Monisola Omole and Jesea LittleJohn, who won in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and are both currently college students.
Simpson is now preparing for the State Youth of the Year competition, where she will compete against other Youth of the Year winners in New Jersey.
If she wins, she will move on to Youth of the Year Northeast Regionals. A victory there would land her in the National Youth of the Year contest, making her the very first Union County Youth of the Year winner to make it to nationals.
“The winner last year, Jesea, didn’t win the state competition, but she was in the top four,” said Simpson. “That was a first for the Boys & Girls Club of Union County and is the highest we’ve ever gotten to. If I make it to Nationals, that would be a new record that I would set for our Boys & Girls Club.”
Simpson plans to attend Norfolk State University to study child psychology.