If 18-year-old Kristofer "Kris" Dent is any indication of the quality of young people today, then Alaska's future is secure.
Dent, a senior at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, recently was named the Alaska State Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year.
A member of the Kenai Boys and Girls Club since he was 5, Dent isn't sure how to react to the title.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet, but I am so grateful for the scholarship money," he said. "The others were just as deserving, any one of us could have been chosen."
Recipients of the award, sponsored by the Reader's Digest Association Inc., are selected on the basis of involvement and contributions to family, the Boys and Girls Club, school, community and personal challenges.
Dent's accomplishments within the Boys and Girls Club include serving as vice president of the Keystone Club, which focuses on teen leadership and community, serving as a junior staff member, coaching indoor soccer and developing and implementing a program called The Reading Club to help kids with reading difficulties.
In school, Dent has a 3.5 grade point average, is a disc jockey at dances, played basketball in his freshman and sophomore years and enjoys participating in the Caring for the Kenai competitions.
A member of the North Kenai Chapel, he stays active in the church's youth group and helps put together once-a-month activities.
While he thinks his achievements are not particularly outstanding, it needs to be noted that all of the above takes place in addition to working full time at Home Depot to help with his family's expenses.
Raised in a single-parent household, Dent helps out at home by being a role model to his younger brother, K.C., and shouldering household re-sponsibilities that his mom has difficulty doing.
"Kris does all the 'guy stuff,' fixing things, even wiring the dryer," said Kim Dent, Kris' mother. "He helps with errands and getting his brother where he needs to be."
Even Dent's college of choice, the University of Alaska Anchorage is based on his love for his family.
"I need to be able to start my life goals, but be close enough to be there for my brother, K.C. And if my mom needs me, I am close by," Dent said.
The two-year tuition waiver to UAA, plus the $4,000 that was awarded with the Youth of the Year award will go a long way in helping him to become the first in his family to attend college and obtain his dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.
It is a dream that took shape at the Boys and Girls Club.
"Being around the kids, working there and coaching soccer, I discovered that I really wanted them to be able to get out of the program what I did. It made me realize that I wanted to work with kids," he said.
Describing his years at the club as "great," Dent believes it is the perfect place to be a kid.
"They have structure, but you can also just go and hang with your friends," he said.
"The club helped me in so many ways," he said. "I am more self-assured and I derive a lot of my positive attitude from all of the people that work there.
"It doesn't matter what you are going through, they help teach you to find a way to work through it and achieve your goals."
Tina Herford, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula, said she believes the club has definitely benefited from Dent's participation.
"Kris is a quiet and strong force within the club," she said. "He leads quietly by his actions. He genuinely wants others to succeed.
"The Reading Club is an example of what he gives out of the concern for others," Herford said. "Kris lives what he believes. He is the same loyal and dedicated person outside the club as he is here."
The next step for Dent will be the Pacific Regional Youth of the Year competition to be held in June at Disneyland. This is where winners from states in the Pacific region compete to advance to the national level and an opportunity for $10,000 in scholarship money.
The national winner will be honored at a presentation at the White House.
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