UNION, NJ — Being named Union Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year is quite an honor. Just ask Ronnie Brangman, the recipient of this prestigious award.
Brangman, 16, competed with six other candidates from Union County for the title, which was announced at the club’s annual awards dinner in April. Brangman, who is a senior at Union High School, said that he has been part of the club for ten years. “I’ve been coming since I was six years old,” said Brangman. “I love the atmosphere, I love the feeling of belonging, of family.”
In order to be nominated as a Youth of the Year candidate, teens have to display service to the club, community, and family, academic success, strong moral character, life goals, poise, and public speaking ability. Candidates also had to complete a detailed application, write a series of essays, provide references and recommendations, as well as a resume and school transcripts.
Brangman said that although it took him about three weeks to complete the application, he was not deterred by the challenge. “I really felt special,” said Brangman. “I felt like I could win something. I saw previous winners and I wanted to be a part of that. I took up the challenge.”
After Brangman joined the club, he began participating in the club’s after school program, Torch Club, and Passport to Manhood. He is currently an active member of teen leadership program Keystone Club, Stand & Deliver — a public speaking program, Career Launch, and Goals for Graduation. As part of Keystone Club’s community service requirement, Ronnie has volunteered more than 65 hours at Community FoodBank of NJ.
Brangman, who has been interning at Boys and Girls’ Union Club since 2014, said that he enjoys working with the kids. “I help the kids with homework and bring them to the gym,” said Brangman. “I do everything a normal staff member does.”
Russell Triolo, CEO of Union County clubs, said that Brangman mirrors his mentorship aspirations after his own experience as a youngster attending the club. “He remembers his role models when he was here as a kid,” said Triolo of Brangman. “He is now working with kids, providing mentorship to kids.”
Brangman’s father, Ronald Brangman, who also works for the club, said that he takes pride in his son’s accomplishments. “He’s a very unique person,” said Brangman of his son. “He’s a very compassionate, caring young man. He’s very family-oriented. His mother and I are extremely proud.”
Triolo said that Brangman is a testament to the mission of the club. “What Ronnie’s done is unbelievable,” said Triolo. “What he represents is what we’ve done for thousands of kids. We save lives — I know we do. I know that without the club, where would these kids be? They come here because in most cases, it’s a second home. It is for thousands of kids. We need a guy like Ron to tell everyone, to bring support to our organization.”
Each of the finalists received $1000 in scholarships, with Brangman receiving $4,000 as winner of the award.
Triolo praised all of the teen nominees. “This experience for Ronnie, as well as all other six nominees — well, they are all winners,” said Triolo. “We are so proud of Ron. It’s important that our kids who attend our club continue to grow through the years.”
Brangman, who plans on majoring in criminal justice at Rowan University, said that he is honored to be considered a role model. “I’m honored and actually it’s humbling,” said Brangman. “It’s really amazing to be put in the position of role model. I was that child once, and now I’m a part of the future.”
Brangman will be competing in the state competition in June.
For more information on Boys and Girls Clubs of Union County visit www.bgcuc.org