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Holleman named 'Youth of the Year' for Boys and Girls Club

Bemidji High School junior Rhea Holleman was named “Youth of the Year” for the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area. Submitted photo.

BEMIDJI—Rhea Holleman was in third grade when her family's house in Cass Lake burned to the ground, taking most of their possessions—and the family dog—with it.

But, as she bounced from house to house and worked through the anxiety that bubbled up after the fire, the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area was a helpful constant. That story is one reason she was named the club's Youth of the Year, and she'll tell it to a panel of judges next week as she vies to be Minnesota's Youth of the Year.

"The constant moving at age eight through 14 alienated my sense of belonging. There was a lot of loss I endured in such a short time, but I had help," Holleman said at the club's "Evening of Love" gala last month. She'll deliver a shorter version at the state Youth of the Year competition. "Throughout the biggest changes and challenges of my life, the club has always been there. Without the club, I wouldn't be who I am today, and I may not have even been here at all."

Holleman plans to use the $1,000 she earned for her appearance in the state finals to attend Bemidji State University, where she said she plans to study business and public relations.

At the club, Holleman is part of the Smart Girls, Leadership Club, and Career Launch programs. She also works in the club's cafeteria, volunteers on its behalf at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, the Headwaters Science Center, and helps out on Senior Community Cleanup Day.

Holleman is also a member of the Environmental Science Club, the Headwaters Science Center, and has a seat on the youth advisory board for Unity for Yoga, according to club staff.

At Bemidji High School, Holleman, a junior, is a member of the band and pep band, part of the business academy and has been a mentor and coach as part of the Students First project. In 2017, she was a member of the school's Junior ROTC program to build skills in character, leadership and citizenship.

"We are pleased to have Rhea represent our club and our community at the state level," said Andrea Ohnstad, the club's executive director, in a press release. "She has grown into a leader and role model and is well respected by club staff and peers for her kindness and inspiration to serve others."

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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