Denfeld News

Feb. 21, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Turnaround leads to triumph
Will Ashenmacher

As former police chief Roger Waller prepared to announce the Youth of the Year at the Boys & Girls Club on Tuesday night, 17-year-old Collin Wynn clasped his hands and bowed his head, willing his name to the be the one escaping from Waller’s lips.

When Waller did announce his name, the Denfeld student leapt from his seat amid cheers and clapping from family and friends who had come to support him.

“I’d just like to thank everybody for not giving up on me,” Wynn said in his short acceptance speech.

In a longer speech he gave earlier in the evening, Wynn told of growing up with an absentee father. Without a strong paternal role model, Wynn turned to his brothers for support.

“My brothers mean a lot to me — we have each other,” he said.

His love for his brothers made it difficult, then, when people made fun of his family. Wynn is white; his brothers are black or of mixed ancestry.

The teasing led to fighting and trash-


“I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” Wynn said. “I thought it was normal.”

Wynn said the problems in school and in his social life continued until recently when he tired of his bad reputation.

“I was sick of being on probation … and being known as the bad kid,” Wynn said.

Wynn started taking his participation with the Boys & Girls Club more seriously. He joined the basketball and softball teams and participated in the Keystone Club, which gets club members to volunteer in the community.

The closer ties to the club gave Wynn a different perspective on life.

“I started to enjoy my life more,” he said. “I’ve never had the straight road. I’ve always had the bumps, but that’s made me stronger and made me the person I am today.”

“He’s made a huge turnaround for the better,” said Karla Woodfill, who has been Wynn’s coach for three and a half years.

Also nominated for the Youth of the Year award were LaMonte Thunberg and Walter Effinger.

Thunberg, a 16-year-old Denfeld student, participates in art classes, cooking lessons and gives dance instruction at the club’s Teen Center. His mother, who read his speech for him because LaMonte was out of town, said he wants to attend the Juilliard School in New York City and become a dance instructor.

“The club is the place where my dreams grow,” he wrote in his speech.

Effinger, a sophomore at Denfeld, is the president of the Keystone Club and said the Boys & Girls Club staff members have given him invaluable guidance.

“The club has taught me how to treat other people and the staff has taught me to look into the future and set specific goals,” Effinger said.

Wynn, Thunberg and Effinger were among the 12 Members of the Month named last year. The three finalists were selected on the basis of essays they wrote on the topic “What the Club Means To Me,” according to Jodi Millerbernd, the club’s director of operations.

Wynn and Effinger met before a panel of four judges Tuesday night — Thunberg was considered in absentia — and considered on the basis of community involvement, moral character and other areas.

Wynn is the 36th Young Person of the Year named by the Duluth chapter of the Boys & Girls Club.

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