Tacoma student will head to Washington, D.C., as a Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year

A Tacoma teenager has been named Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year for the nine-state Pacific region and will next advance to national competition.

Tae McKenzie, who graduated from Lincoln High School in June, will receive a $10,000 college scholarship after being named Pacific Region Youth of the Year, plus another 8,000 for winning at the state and local levels. She will receive an additional $50,000 scholarship if named National Youth of the Year in Washington, D.C., next month.

She will study business and communications at the University of Washington in Seattle this fall after a summer internship with the Seattle Seahawks.

McKenzie, 18, has participated in Boys & Girls Club South Puget Sound activities for 11 years, originally as a girl looking for a place to hang out on the Hilltop and later as a role model for younger kids. She also served on the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Committee for Tacoma Public Schools, and co-founded a girls mentorship program at Lincoln, called Sisterhood.

“I’m a big believer in the domino theory. If you can just impact one life, you never know how many more may be touched,” McKenzie said in an interview with The News Tribune in March, shortly after she was named South Puget Sound Youth of the Year.

She also recounted her life as the child of a single mother, and the devastation she felt for years because of the inattention of her father.

“If I knew someone in the same situation,” she said, “my advice would be my favorite quote: ‘Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it.’”

Advancing a youth to national competition is a rare honor for the Tacoma-based Boys & Girls Club office. The last time it happened was in 2009 when Christney Kpodo, another Lincoln High product, represented West Coast states in the Pacific Region.

“(McKenzie) is a great representative not just for our Boys and Girls Club but for the entire community — for Tacoma,” said Jinnie Hanson, communications director for Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.