Originally created 04/17/99

Students compete for honor



It's not an easy job being the cream of the crop, but Omar Muhammad says he wears the distinction well because he's earned it.

Dressed in a black tuxedo, Omar sat confidently before a panel of two judges choosing Youth of the Year and shared his accomplishments over the six years he has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club.

Undoubtedly, the fact that the high school junior took a grocery store job near his home in Columbus, Ga., to help his mother pay bills; got one of his academically failed siblings on the honor roll; and managed to establish local- star status on his high school's basketball team were reasons why he was invited to the competition for the second time.

Omar was among 10 students chosen to compete in the statewide Boys and Girls Club competition that may lead to a trip to Washington, an $8,000 scholarship and a chance to appear on Oprah Winfrey's TV show.

Three sets of judges questioned the students about home life, personal and academic growth and commitment to the club.

Before the competition, each of the 10 students received $1,000 for being the Youth of the Year in their area club.

Nateefa Lee, the 26th member to join the Dogwood Terrace club when it opened in 1994, was one of two students chosen from Augusta.

"It was one of the only positive places in our neighborhood. I feel like they give you space to grow ," said the 17-year-old T.W. Josey High School student.

Nateefa, who received her acceptance letter from South Carolina State University last week, said that when she earns her degree in elementary education she'll return to Augusta and give back to the community that reared her.

"It was a no-brainer," said Gary Winferry, one of the club unit directors, of choosing Nateefa this year. "With her being a senior in high school, she comes in and helps the younger kids with homework. She is in the band. They look at her and say,`she's a success, maybe I can do this."'

Though she qualified in accomplishments, Wynette Allen, who was chosen from Augusta's Division Street club, did not compete because she is the child of a club employee.

The winner in the statewide competition goes on to the July regional contest in Atlanta. The five region winners will meet in Washington to compete for the national title.

Statewide winners had to agree to appear on the Oprah in the event that they are called to appear. Ms. Winfrey's Angel Network is a sponsor of the national club.

Clarissa J. Walker can be reached at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.