Introducing Daijahnay Canady, 2018 FOX Sports Wisconsin Youth of the Year
We are excited to introduce you to our 2018 FOX Sports Wisconsin Youth of the Year, Daijahnay Canady! Daijahnay represents everything we hope all youth can achieve: She is a shining example of Club members’ potential to grow as leaders and positive mentors for their peers.
Youth of the Year is the highest honor given to Boys & Girls Clubs members. It is a national competition beginning with local Clubs selecting their representatives, who compete at the state level with winners advancing to regional and then the national competition. In the case of Daijahnay, she is not only the Youth of the Year for Milwaukee, but the state of Wisconsin, earning this distinction by competing against 15 other Youth of the Year winners from across the state in Green Bay in early March.
Many Club members use the competition to advocate for issues youth face in their communities, and in Daijahnay’s case, she is using her platform to tie into the #MeToo movement.
When she was seven years old, Daijahnay was sexually abused — an experience that left her feeling hurt, angry, hopeless and as if she had lost her voice. Without professional help, Daijahnay did her best to cope as she looked for someone to blame. Ultimately, she blamed herself. Over the next several years, she sought attention, and often went about getting it in destructive ways. She hit a personal low point during her freshman year of high school.
It was around this time Daijahnay’s life began to turn around thanks to support from local youth-serving organizations. She was connected to a counselor through Pathfinders’ Hand-in-Hand program for youth survivors of sexual abuse. She also made the decision to transfer to St. Joan Antida High School, which was a better fit for her. “Daijahnay is a remarkable young lady,” said Paul Gessner, Head of School at St. Joan Antida High School. “From the day she entered the doors at St. Joan’s as a transfer student, we knew she had great potential. Daijahnay’s determination to overcome significant life challenges led her to leverage opportunities, including the Boys & Girls Club programs. She’s grown tremendously as a student, as a leader for her peers, and now as an advocate.”
As a new student, she heard about Boys & Girls Clubs’ after-school program located in the building. She initially didn’t have much interest in joining until the Club hosted an event associated with the international Denim Day movement — a day to raise awareness that a person’s clothing is never an excuse for rape or sexual assault. Participating in this event gave her purpose and marked the beginning of Daijahnay’s journey to regain her voice.
As she spent more time at the Club, staff members began to see a transformation. “When Daijahnay first became a Club member, she lacked confidence,” says Ebony Haynes, Boys & Girls Clubs’ Social Emotional Learning Program Manager. “In the safety of the Club environment and with the encouragement of staff and fellow members, she took on leadership opportunities, began to open up and found her self-worth.”
Now, after nearly two years at her new school and as a Club member, Daijahnay has raised her GPA by 79 percent since freshman year. She is the captain of her high school’s mock trial team, and is being mentored by Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern. She joined a community service program through Boys & Girls Clubs and now leads the planning for the Clubs’ Denim Day event. Even with all of this positive momentum, deciding to enter the Youth of the Year competition and publicly share her story was a big decision.
“I have made so much positive life progress over the past couple of years, but sharing something as personal as sexual abuse is scary,” she says. “Ultimately, I decided if sharing my story can help other people on their journey to healing, then it is well worth facing down my own fears.”
Around the same time Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee put out a call across its Clubs for Youth of the Year applicants, the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum and media attention. The movement showed survivors like Daijahnay they were not alone and empowered victims to speak out. Feeling inspired, she decided to submit an application for the Milwaukee Youth of the Year competition. A panel of judges selected Daijahnay from seven finalists to represent Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Youth of the Year competition.
As the Wisconsin Youth of the Year, Daijahnay will spend the next few months preparing for the regional competition in Chicago this summer with hopes of making it to the national competition in Washington D.C. She is also slated to speak at the Denim Day Summit on April 25 and Boys & Girls Clubs’ annual MVP dinner at The Pfister Hotel on May 7. She has also earned scholarship money from Milwaukee Youth of the Year sponsor FOX Sports Wisconsin, the Home Team Scholarship and national sponsors Disney and Toyota. She will utilize this scholarship money to achieve her ultimate goal of becoming a criminal prosecutor.