D’Kalyn Morris fits a lot of activities into her typical weekday.
Now, she is adding preparation for the Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year competition into the mix.
Morris, 15, of Dallas, recently was chosen as the Paulding County Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year.
The Paulding County High School sophomore will compete against 20 other Club-level winners from nine other counties for the Metro Atlanta Youth of the Year title at the Club’s annual Fundraising Gala Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta.
Each Club’s honoree is set to interview with Club leaders and give a speech at the Nov. 8 event “about where they started, how your support has helped shaped who they are today, and what big dreams they have for the future,” the Club’s website stated.
Morris said she meets with a group of “mentors” every Wednesday to “go over my speech and, any imperfections, we fix them.”
She then practices her speech in front of all Paulding Boys & Girls Club members, she said.
However, Morris said it will be worth all the time she is spending on preparation — in addition to her work as a top student in Paulding County High School’s STEM magnet program and the long hours of practice playing clarinet in the school’s marching band.
“I’m scared but I know I have good mentors and they are slowly but surely helping me to put my speech and put my feelings into words,” she said. “I’m very confident in what I have so far.”
Morris recalled being “really shy and timid and really quiet” and “not very assertive at all” when she arrived at the Paulding Club as a 6-year-old.
After leaving friends behind after moving from Douglasville at age 5, she moved to Dallas and joined the Club in Dallas.
“When I first started coming to the Club, slowly they showed me the way and they gave great role models to follow and good people to look up to,” she said. “I wouldn’t be the young lady that I am today if it wasn’t for my Club.
“There are people here who I’ve grown up with, and I have really close attachment to some of the staff as well.”
She said the Club’s staff “cares about you and shows you respect and expects it back.”
“That helps a lot of kids develop respectful tendencies,” she said.
“(The staff is) just really interactive with all of the kids here and it makes it feel like a second home,” Morris said. “Like a safe space, very comfortable, where I can be myself.”
Paulding Club director Raiko Jones said Morris has a chance to earn the Metro Atlanta title for a number of reasons.
“D’Kalyn is very focused,” Jones said.
“She is articulate. She is kind and she’s determined. She has that tenacious spirit to get things done.
“She has strong leadership skills which is one of the reasons why we chose her,” she said.
“Our Youth of the Year typically is a model member. You want other members to be able to emulate the Youth of the Year — the way they carry themselves, their thought process toward academics, their focus on secondary education or their career path.
“She seems to have all of that, and she’s humble. That’s a great quality to have.”
Morris is the daughter of Chastity Morris of Dallas and has two siblings who are also Club members.
She attended Dallas Elementary and Herschel Jones Middle schools before Paulding County High.
Morris also earned the Club’s Junior Youth of the Year award in 2017 and participated in a poetry competition program, all of which gave her experience as a public speaker, she said.
Her community activities have included organizing a canned food drive at the Club, and forming a group called Global Girls in which she discusses issues facing young women with her peers, according to Club officials.
She said she has not decided on a college or field of study she plans to pursue, but is leaning toward something medicine-related field at either Spelman College in Atlanta or a public university in Georgia.
Youth of the Year is “a year-round character and leadership program that recognizes Club members who demonstrate academic achievement and leadership skills and provide service to the community.”
Each Club honors one of its members ages 14 to 18 every month and then chooses one to represent the Club at the annual event.
The metro Atlanta winner will go on to compete for the Georgia Youth of the Year title.
Kai Hartman, a senior at Lithia Springs High School in nearby Douglas County, won the state title in 2018.
Delta Flight Museum is at 1060 Delta Blvd B-914, near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.