Malachi Haynes first walked through the doors of his local Boys & Girls Club on his sixth birthday. Fast-forward 12 years, and he’s a top participant in the organization’s annual Youth of the Year program, Boys & Girls Clubs’ premier recognition and leadership development program for club members.
And, he’s a Colorado State University freshman.
“CSU was my first choice for in-state,” said Haynes, 18. “Out-of-state didn’t work out for me, and I felt more welcome [at CSU].”
Since January, Haynes has competed in – and won – the Youth of the Year leadership award at the city, state, and regional levels; he is slated to compete for the national award in Washington, D.C., in late September.
A Denver George Washington High School graduate, Haynes will begin his undergraduate degree in CSU’s Department of Health and Exercise Science, with a goal of learning how to prevent and diagnose athletic injuries.
“As a land-grant institution we have a mission to provide access to every student who has the ability to succeed. Malachi has worked extremely hard to get to where he is, and he will no doubt thrive as he pursues his degree at CSU,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System and a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver Board of Directors. “We’re thrilled to welcome Malachi to the CSU family – he is not only an amazing student, but an inspirational person, and he will make the campus a better place.”
For Haynes, the excitement of joining the CSU community was accompanied by relief, and a newfound sense of responsibility.
“It feels as if the world has been lifted off my shoulders as I am now a CSU Ram. I am the first person in my family to attend college and I will not waste this opportunity to become a leader and a role model within my family!” Haynes said.
Striving for success
Each level of the Youth of the Year award comes with a financial scholarship, which can be used toward any educational programs of the awardee’s choice. Haynes received $1,000 for winning at the club level, $2,000 at the city level, $5,000 at the state level, and $40,000 at the regional level.
As part of CSU’s longstanding partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, club members are eligible for grant funding and wraparound services at CSU.
At the upcoming national competition, Haynes will go head-to-head with four other regional award winners for a chance to win $100,000 and a new Toyota Corolla. Each level has a written, verbal, and interview component.
“Malachi has worked hard throughout this process, and over his tenure at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, and absolutely deserves this title,” said Tonja Mitchell (pictured with Haynes, above), senior program director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. “As an organization, we are thrilled Malachi is attending CSU this fall and will be furthering his education at an institution we have developed a great partnership with over the years.”
Paying it forward
Haynes helped create a mentorship program at the Boettcher Boys & Girls Club to improve the reading abilities of middle school students. He and his friend identified five students who were behind in reading proficiency and also needed motivational support. They met for two hours every Friday for eight weeks, practicing reading for the first hour and playing sports for the second; they called the program “Double Trouble.”
“It was pretty cool,” said Haynes. “Everybody that was in the program improved [their reading ability] by at least a grade level. That was pretty big for me.”
Just as Haynes provided mentorship to younger members, two mentors at his club encouraged him to apply for the Youth of the Year program, helping him with interview skills and providing guidance on his essays.
After losing at the club level last year, Haynes had lost motivation to reapply.
“This year I didn’t really want to do it, and I was pushed by one of the staff members to keep trying. So, I went from losing last year to making it to Nationals this year,” he said.
David Porteous mentored Haynes for three years leading up to the 2018 Youth of the Year competitions.
“Malachi is somebody who uses the hardships, challenges, and adversity he faces in life as fuel to accomplish great things instead of allowing it to act as a weight that holds him back,” said Porteous. “He is an incredible individual who will continue to do amazing things, and I am grateful for all the things he taught me over the years.”
Looking beyond college
Haynes intends to continue his education and pursue a career in health care, and dreams of owning his own shoe store — to buy, sell, and trade used, new, and limited shoes. His two personal favorites are the Air Jordan 1 Top 3s and the Adidas Yeezys.
Wherever his career path leads, he also intends to continue supporting his local Boys & Girls Club.
During his free time, Haynes attends events like Denver SneakerFest, plays video games, and participates in sports including basketball and football. He also volunteers at fundraisers for his younger sister’s dance team, and serves as a positive exemplar for his peers.
“They’ve known me, and they’ve seen me grow so much — it motivates them,” he said.
Haynes encourages other youth to take advantage of the many opportunities provided by their local Boys & Girls Clubs, and to persevere through risks and hardships.
“You get to meet new people from different cultures that you never would’ve come across before,” he said. “Keep working hard, and make sure to take risks. Step out of your comfort zone.”
CSU and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver
Colorado State University and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver have an official partnership aligned around a mission of access and the opportunity for students to see that higher education is a viable option for their future. CSU is the first official higher education partner of BGCMD and currently hosts students on campus several times a year, participates in club activities, provides support to students during their time as members of BGCMD, and offers scholarship opportunities and wraparound support for members who attend CSU to ensure success during their time at the University.