By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When Jillian Maghini began volunteering for an entire summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center, her hard work—as well as her personality—shined through.
BBGC staff members like Athletic Director Steve Beecher knew they could rely on Jillian with any task they assigned her to during that summer going into her junior year at Bristol Eastern High School.
It didn’t take long before Jillian became a staff member at BBGC, where she completed over 200 volunteer hours. By that fall, she was hired.
“Jillian chose to first volunteer. We saw she was a hard worker, a great kid, and then we hired her,” said Beecher.
Recently, Jillian was named the 2017 Youth of the Year at BBGC, where Beecher nominated the high school senior in December. One of five nominees who completed an application process for the title, Jillian will now compete for the Youth of the Year state title on May 24.
For Jillian, becoming this year’s “Youth of the Year” means the world to her.
“I’ve been overfilled with joy and happiness,” said Jillian, who was recently featured on Bristol Beat Radio.
Besides her ability to go above and beyond with the tasks she undertakes, BBGC staff also noticed Jillian’s bubbly personality. Every day Jillian inspires children, who immediately walk up to her when she enters the West Street facility, said Beecher.
“The kids love her. When she walks into the building…they give her a hug, a high five,” said Beecher. “She’s got a great personality, and that’s important because you never know what type of day kids re having when they walk in this building, and they need someone to have that positivity.”
“Jill has an energy that everyone is attracted to as soon as they meet her,” added BBGC Teen Director Nicole Stere. “She is friendly, kind, hardworking and has a great personality.”
Whether she’s helping youth one-on-one with homework or playing ping pong with them, coming to BBGC is something Jillian said she always looks forward to no matter the day.
“It’s being able to bond with them and…getting to know who they are a little bit more,” said Jillian, who played basketball at BBGC years ago.
On May 17, Jillian will make her first speech during the club’s annual Youth Recognition Dinner. During the application process for the award, Jillian, along with the other “Youth of the Year” nominees, wrote three essays, submitted three recommendation letters, and completed public speaking and interview workshops. Nominees also prepared a three-minute speech, which they presented to the judges during an interview.
Stere said this year’s process was “really one to remember.”
“I am so honored to know these special teens and to have had worked with them during this process,” said Stere. “They all learned a lot about themselves and also a lot about each other.”
Like Jillian, all of the nominees are staff members—and members of the Keystone Club—a leadership and community service group at BBGC.
Recently, Jillian played a key role bringing Rachel’s Challenge to BBGC. Based on the life and diaries of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim killed in the 1999 Columbine shooting, Rachel’s Challenge is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire others to replace acts of violence and bullying with respect, kindness, and compassion.
Through her involvement with Keystone, Jillian said she has enjoyed meeting new people while giving back to her community in a variety of ways, such as painting trash cans at Cambridge Park on Earth Day.
“Simple acts like that go a long way,” said Jillian.
Looking back at her time spent at BBGC, Jillian said she has learned how much one person can grow. Recalling the moment she first stepped inside BBGC as a brand new face to the day she became a staff member, Jillian said she has grown into a more outgoing and confident individual. This kind of growth, added Jillian, has helped her in other areas, including school, where she plays softball and serves on both the leadership and student council.
“I came in as such as such a shy person, not really knowing who I was, what I wanted to do,” said Jillian, adding how every BBGC staff member has played a role in her growth. “But then the first day I walked in as a staff member, I realized that this is everything I’m meant to be and what I hope to be.”
After graduation, Jillian plans to study law at Salve Regina University with the hope of becoming a child advocate lawyer one day.
“Working here at the Club, you see a lot of children that go through bad things at home,” said Jillian. “If I’m able to create strong bonds with these children, and they’re able to open up to me, I can imagine the things I can do when I’m older—I can…be there for them and be able to fight for their rights.”