Gao Hlee Moua, a 17 year old member of Mt. Airy Club has been named the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities Youth of the Year.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth of the Year recognition is the highest honor a Club member can achieve. The Youth of the Year program celebrates youth who have overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments. These deserving young people are recognized for service to their Club and community, academic performance and contributions to their family.
Gao Hlee joined the Mt. Airy Club in Saint Paul at age 6. She is the ninth and youngest child of Hmong immigrants. Her and her siblings were raised solely by their mother in Mt. Airy public housing. In Hmong families girls are expected to do household chores such as cooking and cleaning, while boys are allowed to roam without expectation.
Gao Hlee’s older siblings followed destructive paths including joining gangs, using drugs, and having children at a young age. Many of her siblings moved out of the house leaving Gao Hlee to care for her legally disabled mother and also regularly babysit her sisters’ children without notice or compensation. Because of the damaging choices of her older siblings, Gao Hlee’s mother lost faith in her children. This continues to create tension for Gao Hlee, who despite being active in school and Club activities, receives little support or praise from her mother.
Gao Hlee is a valued member of the Mt. Airy Club, serving as President of Keystone, a Club program, captain of the Club volleyball team, and working at the Club as a youth worker through Youth Job Corps, a position which provides extra income for her family. Gao Hlee also volunteers at Mt. Airy Club, dedicating her time to younger Club members because she sees herself in them. Gao Hlee is a positive role model youth at Mt. Airy and across other Clubs.
She says, “Because of the Boys & Girls Club, I am the person I am today: determined, confident, and strong. Being a part of the Club has kept me out of trouble and away from being involved in dangerous activities. Every person and every interaction during my time at the Club has helped me realize what it takes to accomplish a goal. Through my experience at the Club, I know what it takes to be a reliable leader, and a productive, responsible and caring citizen.”
Gao Hlee attends Harding High School in Saint Paul where is a senior maintaining a grade point average of 3.99. Gao Hlee is a member of the National Honor Society, Harding choir, French Club, and Prom Committee, along with many other activities at her high school. She plans on attending the College of Saint Benedict after high school and majoring in law. Gao Hlee’s life goal is to have a career in the criminal justice field, specifically working as a detective. “I dream about my future self, and giving back to the community that helped me to develop from a shy girl with low self-confidence into a leader and catalyst for change.”