Akron youth places second in state

Davontre Cohen has strong ideas about who he is and who he is not.

The 17 year-old, who was selected as Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve, said he does not want to be anyone except himself. “It is always better to be an original than to be a copy,” Davontre said.

The Bud Rogers Youth of the Year contest, a program sponsored by Covelli Enterprises, recently sent Cohen to Troy, Mich. to compete against nine other Youth of the Year winners from Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Ohio.

Cohen placed second. “I wanted to be first,” he said. “But I am thrilled that I was second and am humbled and honored.”

Cohen, a junior at Akron Early College, will graduate in 2017 with an associate’s degree in art and then hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at University of Southern California, Cleveland Institute of Art or Kent State University. Ultimately, he said he hopes to be able to design video games.

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Davontre Cohen and Eller Teen Club Director, Jacquelyn Minor.

Covelli Enterprises gave Cohen $2,500 that he was able to use to purchase a laptop and to pay for driving school. He also won a $1,000 scholarship from the Dick and Chris Chenoweth Scholarship Fund through the GAR Foundation.

For Cohen, the contest and the Boys & Girls Club have far more meaning than the recognition and the prizes.  Cohen has been attending the Boys & Girls Club since he was 5 years-old.

And the Boys and Girls Club has provided him with stability and safety that he didn’t always have in school or home.

Five years ago, on New Years’s Eve, he and other members of his family were at his grandmother’s home when bullets started flying through the house. His 23 year-old cousin was struck in the head and the chest and his grandmother was grazed by a bullet.

His cousin died. Months later, police caught the person responsible – a man who was mad at Davontre’s cousin for not allowing him to date the cousin’s young daughter.

“What I learned from that is that anything can happen at any time and we just have to be strong all of the time,” he said. “We have family meetings all of the time where we talk about what’s happening in our lives and how we can help each other.”

Davontre said he hears many people talk about how they want to be “LeBron James” or “Stephen Curry” or “Kevin Hart.” 

He said it is important to remember that “not everyone can be a these people, but everyone can be the best version of themselves. Instead of wanting to be those people, I want to be better than my inspirations. If you are just as good as those people, no one can tell the difference. This is why striving to reach a goal does not mean you are trying to be like someone else, it means you are choosing to better your own self and well-being.”

Julie M. Johnson, president & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve, said she is extremely proud of Davontre. “Davontre is an amazing young man, a great leader and an excellent example of the impact that Boys & Girls Clubs have on the youth we serve right here in our Clubs every day,” she said.

Being named Youth of the Year is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. As BGCA’s premier youth recognition program, Youth of the Year recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club.

“While we have selected an Akron Youth of the Year for at least the past 15 years, Davontre is our very first local winner acknowledged with this tremendous honor at the state level,” said Johnson. “Throughout his past 12 years in our Club family, we have witnessed Davontre grow to overcome many personal challenges and obstacles while he has continued to strive to reach his full potential.  Davontre Cohen is a shining example and living proof that great futures really do start at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve.”