Joseph Poakwa, 17, a 12th-grade student at University High School, has been named the 2005 Venice Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year.

Also honored by the club were:

– Elizabeth Hinojoza, 14, a ninth-grade Venice High School student;

– Paraleese Lyndsey, 15, a ninth-grade Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies student; and

– Markellis Jefferson, 17, a recent graduate of the Kayne Era Center.

About 75 people attended the award ceremony Wednesday, February 23rd, at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice.

“Kids like Markellis just don’t come around here every day,” said James Jefferson, father of Markellis.

The younger Markellis said he plans on attending Santa Monica College in the fall and will continue to be a Boys & Girls Club of Venice member until he turns 18, at which point he plans to volunteer at the club.

The four candidates for the top honor were judged on spiritual values, life goals, poise, and public speaking.

Poakwa received a $1,000 President’s Student Service Scholarship, provided by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Corporation for National Service.

He also received a $1,000 scholarship from the Venice-Marina Rotary Club and an additional $500 from Westside Sunrise Church, along with a letter from President George W. Bush.

Poakwa will be able to participate in a state competition. State winners will participate in regional competitions and five youths will compete in a national competition.

The winner will be named Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year, receive an additional $10,000 scholarship from the President at the White House and be honored at a congressional breakfast on Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s safe to say that although only one person can be named the Venice Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year, all four of the candidates are winners,” said Ron Moeckel, service director for the Boys & Girls Club of America.