Teen uses painful past as a motivation to win Youth of the Year – Gainesville Times

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Bell, who raised Cheeks, said she was overwhelmed with pride when she heard her daughter’s name called for Youth of the Year. Bell said competing for the award was nothing new to Cheeks, since she regularly loves speaking and singing at her church. 

Antoine Nealey, the director of the Boys & Girls Club’s teen center, said many of the other organization’s members look up to Cheeks. 

“She’s very resilient, that’s her biggest characteristic,” he said. “She’s been through a lot in her life, and she’s always stayed positive about it ever since I’ve known her.”

Through winning the local Youth of the Year award, Cheeks received a $1,000 scholarship to put toward college.

She will now go on to represent the Boys & Girls Club of Lanier on the state level and compete against a new pool of students for a $5,000 scholarship. 

When she graduates from high school, Cheeks plans on applying to the U.S. Air Force and to pursue a medical career. 

Cheeks said she wants to explore the world, and feels as though the Air Force would be a great place to start.

“My book isn’t finished, and in all honesty, it’s just the beginning,” Cheeks said. “Someone needs to hear my story, so here it is. Never let the hurt define who you are. Let that be the reason for everything you’re doing.”

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