BRADENTON -- Before Lourde Blanc joined the Boys & Girls Clubs chapter at Southeast High School, she would just go home after school and be bored.
A friend convinced her to join "The CLUB at Southeast High School" and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I am very lucky to be here," she said.
Blanc, a 17-year-old junior, was awarded the 2016 Youth of the Year award Wednesday by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.
She was honored alongside Nicklaus Charles-Crowl, a 17-year-old junior at Bayshore High School and member of the DeSoto Club; and Raven Eldridge, a 17-year-old senior at Palmetto High School and member of the Palmetto Club.
Junior Youth of the Year honorees from Manatee County elementary and middle school clubs were also recognized at the dinner ceremony at the IMG Academy Golf Club.
It's the first time the club held a special ceremony to announce the winners, said Dawn Stanhope, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.
"They're such an inspiration to their peers," Stanhope said, adding all the finalists are winners.
All three Youth of the Year finalists receive a college scholarship courtesy of IMG Academy. Blanc will represent Manatee County clubs at state and possibly the national level. She'll also serve as an ambassador and voice of the youth in Manatee County next year.
"I want to bring more people into the Boys & Girls Clubs," she said.
"Until you join it, you'll never know how much there is to offer."
Charles-Crowl and Eldridge also spoke about what the club had been able to offer each of them.
In May 2008, Charles-Crowl lost his mother and an older sibling in a car accident. The club became a safe place for him, he said.
"The club has been there for me ever since," he said.
Eldridge said she has benefited greatly from the "power hour" at the club, where students spent an hour working on homework with help from the staff.
"The staff at the club has always had my best interest at heart," she said.
Youth of the Year finalists were chosen by the directors of each Boys & Girls Club in the county.
Students wrote essays about themselves and have letters of recommendation written for them. The finalists went before a panel of seven judges from the business and education community last week at New College, and the winner was announced Wednesday.
Along with honoring Youth of the Year finalists, the Junior Youths of the Year were also recognized.
Seeing Blanc announced as the Youth of the Year inspired Shedrick Andrews, the Junior Youth of the Year from the Palmetto Club. Andrews is a 13-year-old seventh-grade student at Buffalo Creek Middle School.
"It was a great feeling to be here," he said. "It just inspired me more.
The same went for 9-year-old Luciano Lopez, a third-grader and member of the Boys & Girls Club at Orange-Ridge Bullock Elementary School. His favorite part of the club is the homework help.
"The teachers, they help us no matter what," he said.
Other junior youth of the year: Max Berry from the DeSoto Club, Gabriella Griner from the club at Harllee Middle School, Bre'Ani Knighton from the club at Daughtrey Elementary School and Aryana Mack from the club at Lincoln Middle School.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.