Mt. Spokane High School junior Jonathan Ray was recently selected as the Spokane County Boys and Girls Clubs Youth of the Year.
“He’s a pretty incredible young man,” said Boys and Girls Clubs director of program operations Tamara Korth. “It’s been really exciting to watch him grow up in the club.”
Ray, who attends Running Start classes at Spokane Falls Community College, has attended the Lisa Stiles-Gyllenhammer Club in Mead for 10 years. He’s president of his club’s Keystone service group and volunteers with the Leaders in Training program every summer to mentor younger club members.
“He’s a huge basketball fan,” Korth said. “Almost on a daily basis you can find him shooting hoops in the gym.”
There are two Boys and Girls Clubs in Spokane County and each selected a youth of the year. Of the two, Ray was selected to represent Spokane County as the Youth of the Year. Korth said the club looks for youths who represent the club well and show good character and leadership qualities.
Korth said she’s sure Ray will do well as he finishes high school and enters college. “He has a really focused idea of what he wants to do with his life,” she said.
Ray said he had to write multiple essays and go through an interview process as he was being considered for the award and was surprised when he won. “It was really shocking,” he said. “It was a big honor.”
Ray started attending the Boys and Girls Clubs after school program when he was 7 years old. He said the club’s practice of devoting time for homework every day really helped him.
“It’s always been just me and my mom,” he said. “For a while I struggled in school. The club was able to help me out.”
The club also gave him a place to socialize and shoot hoops. “I still go there,” he said. “It’s mainly because I like hanging out with my friends.”
The club also helped Ray in other ways. In seventh grade he met Gus, who worked at the Boys and Girls Clubs and became an important role model and father figure to him. Though Gus no longer works at the club, Ray said they are still in contact with each other.
His grandfather got him into golf, and Ray has been on the Mt. Spokane varsity golf team since his freshman year. Ray said he’s always enjoyed the time he spends on the course with his grandfather. “It’s just been a great bonding thing,” he said.
Along the way Ray took an assessment test to help him consider what career to pursue and the result was civil engineering. Intrigued, Ray researched the career. “I fell in love with it,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in aquifers and how they clean the water.”
Ray hopes to study civil engineering at either Washington State University or Gonzaga University while also playing golf.
But before that happens, there’s one more summer for Ray to volunteer with the club’s leader in training program and help run the club’s summer program for younger students.
“It’s just kind of a bonding experience with the kids,” he said. “Sometimes we become mentors to the kids. It’s just a really great experience, and I’m glad I’m involved with it.”
Still, Ray knows it will all come to an end soon. “This is actually going to be my last summer,” he said. “It’s kind of sad. I will miss it when I graduate.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.