The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area named Justin McNair of Lake City as the Pee Dee Youth of the Year during its annual Steak N Burger Dinner on March 9. The honor came with a $4,000 scholarship from The Carraway Turner Leadership Fund. He will compete in the state event in Greenville on April 1.
“Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it,” McNair says. (Hear McNair in his own words.)
Adopted as an infant by a single mother in rural South Carolina, Justin K. McNair had the odds stacked against him, but at 16 he’s graduating high school. He struggled against ADHD and the stigma attached to the condition. He found a love of music and the piano in second grade. Then a few years later, he suffered the loss of his piano teacher and best friend and a year later a close uncle. He was devastated.
“It was very hard on me,” McNair says. “I became quiet, started falling behind, then the virtual break hit, and I fell even further behind … part of me was also saying I don’t think I can do this.”
After the pandemic waned, and he returned to in-person classes, he found the Boys & Girls Club. His mother, Mary, said, “He needed activity after school, homework help, and a male role model.”
His goal is to become a musician and artist, and his mother says the Club helped him get on the right path. “The club was the ideal place for him.”
Two years at the Lake City Boys & Girls Club & Youth Technology shifted his trajectory and allowed him to step outside his comfort zone. The welcoming environment of the Club helped him develop and grow.
Currently a senior at JP Truluck Creative Arts & Science Magnet School, McNair says the two words that best describe him now are outgoing and entertaining. His motto is “Good character is something that you have to build; it doesn’t come overnight.”
Staff at the Boys & Girls Club showed him that character.
“Whenever you had a dream, they made sure they did everything in their power to accomplish that,” McNair says. “I really love the Boys & Girls Club, and I really would have regretted if mom didn’t force me to go.”
The two-year member was one of six Club Youth of the Year honored at the event. Others included Antonio Dix representing the Hartsville Boys & Girls Club, Tiana Hickson representing the Timmonsville Boys & Girls Club, Sydney Morrison representing the Pamplico Boys & Girls Club, Nydia Orange representing the North Florence Boys & Girls Club, and Jose Rodriguez representing The Rick & Susan Goings Boys & Girls Club in Hemingway.
Runner-up Sydney Morrison of Pamplico earned a $1,000 scholarship from The Carraway Turner Leadership Fund. A seventh grader at Hannah-Pamplico Elementary Middle School, she says the two words that best describe her are encouraging and ambitious. Her personal standard is “to strive for excellence.”
Her first experience with a Boys & Girls Club came when she lived in New York, continued when she moved to Lake City and now in Pamplico. “It’s really a safe place for me,” the 13-year-old said.
“The Boys & Girls Club has helped me make so many friends,” Morrison says gratefully.
She recounts all the fun activities and events she got to be part of at the Boys & Girls Club, including checkers, BINGO, field trips, and even learning Spanish. “I hope everyone gets to enjoy Boys & Girls Club just as much as I did.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee
For the last 58 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee has been bringing the solution to an increasing number of children who are at home with no adult care or supervision. In every community, boys and girls are left to find their own recreation and companionship in the streets, and young people need to know that someone cares about them.
Boys & Girls Clubs offer that and more. Boys & Girls Clubs provide a safe place to learn and grow; ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals; life-enhancing programs and character development experiences; and hope and opportunity. Our goal is to inspire and enable all young people from throughout the Pee Dee Area, especially those who need us most, to become productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence. We focus on academic success, character development, and healthy lifestyles.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee serves more than 3,500 youth a year across six sites across the Pee Dee in Florence, Hartsville, Hemingway, Lake City, Pamplico, and Timmonsville. A stunning 93% of our members belong to no other youth organization, so the Clubs are the last line of defense to promote the social, educational, health, leadership, and character development of boys and girls during critical periods of their growth.
The Carraway Turner Leadership Fund
In 2019, a generous donation from Health Facilities Federal Credit Union, now known as South Carolina Federal Credit Union, created the Carraway Turner Leadership Fund in memory of Sgt. Terrence Carraway and Investigator Farrah Turner, who both lost their lives as a result of the tragic events on October 3, 2018, in Florence. After learning of both officers’ close ties to the Boys & Girls Club, HFFCU CEO Robert Harris and the HFFCU Board created the fund in their memory supporting youth at the Boys & Girls Club.
The Fund provides scholarships to the Youth of the Year for pursuing education after high school. South Carolina Federal Credit Union continues the legacy of HFFCU as very generous supports of the Boys & Girls Club.