Local teen wins Boys & Girls Clubs National Youth of the Year award!

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As National Youth of the Year, Mona Dixon will receive up to $87,000 to attend college and got to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.

Dixon was among five teens from across the nation up for Youth of the Year, but it was Dixon, a five-year member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley, who took the title.

Dixon spoke about what the Boys & Girls Club means to her in front of famous attendees such as Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington and Singer Ashanti.

A life full of struggles did not stop her from ever from giving up. Dixon's determination and the help she says she received from the Boys and Girls Club gave her a fighting chance to make it in the real world.

“A lady I didn't even know told me, ‘Wait, come back and actually paid that fee for me,’” Dixon said. "So that's how I started to be able to come to the Boys and Girls Club.”

It was that gift that gave 17-year-old Dixon an opportunity to walk through the doors of the Boys and Girls Club Ladmo Branch in Tempe more than four years ago.
“I've always learned to be grateful for things that happen and little did I know that $20 was going to bring me to a place that was going to change my life,” Dixon said.

Before, she moved with her family from one homeless shelter to another and sometimes even called the streets home.

“I didn't know it was going to give me that place of security and family and take me away from the adult responsibilities that I had to deal with at home,” Dixon said.

The chance to be a kid at the club helped her make new friends. She also found mentors, worked as a staffer and it all translated to everything she did at Tempe High School.

“I graduated third in my class and I've been involved in a lot of clubs, National Honor Society and Black Student Union,” Dixon said.

She also explained how the club had played a role in helping her when she won another award -- the Arizona Boys and Girls Clubs State Youth of the Year.

“I love working at the club because I can show the kids that it's not about the mistakes, but what one learns from them,” Dixon said. “I can teach them that no one can put limits on how far they can go by themselves.”

“If I work hard, I feel I can get my family out of this situation,” Dixon said. “My mom, I think she feels good about that and knows that I can help us, she believes in me.”

Dixon is currently enrolled at Arizona State University working toward's a Bachelor's degree in business and a Master's in international business.

Mona will appear on Good Morning! Arizona on Friday.