Shonnetta Henry

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption=”Shonnetta Henry, 18, is the 2008 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year.”]

When she was a child, the odds were stacked against her. Shonnetta Henry grew up poor and fast. Her single mother struggled to raise three kids while her dad was in jail, but Shonnetta was still determined to win big.

Shonnetta joined the local Boys & Girls club not as a passive participant, but as a leader. She mentored and tutored younger kids, organized community service projects like National Youth Service Day, and created the poetry and spoken word outreach program, Ink about It.

As the 2008 Boys & Girls Club of America National Youth of the Year, Shonnetta, now 18, has taken herself from the crapshoot of poverty in Denver to the Oval Office to meet President Bush and visit the offices of both presidential candidates to discuss youth issues. As National Youth of the Year, she’ll tour the U.S. and the world as an example to youth about what they can achieve. On top of that, she won a big scholarship that allowed her to start her studies at the University of New Mexico.

Update: Watch the Live interview

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85 Responses to Shonnetta Henry

  1. Pingback: POEMS, POETS, RHYMES AND POETRY » Blog Archive » Shonnetta Henry

  2. LaTanya Smith says:

    you are a shining example of what determination looks like. Stay focus and you will continue to be successful in this world.

  3. Jennifer James says:

    Beautiful story… strong will and goal driven! I believe that is exactly what it takes to succeed beyond your dreams.

  4. Tonya Jones says:

    Shonnetta, first let me say ‘kudos’ for overcoming the odds. I myself am a single mom of a 12year old daughter & will be sure to share your story with her to give her hope & inspiration through your eyes. Please continue to inspire those who think there is no way out of disperity !!
    Question(s) is this: What/Who inspires you? Where do you get such a strong drive from?

    Thanks in advance,
    Tonya Jones
    Windsor, CT

  5. Jaberta says:

    Congratulations Shonnetta!!

    You and your family should be very proud of your accomplishments. Good luck in your studies.

  6. Naomi says:

    I am so proud of you. It is good to see young people grabbing the prize. May god continue to be with you and lead you to serve and help others. What a wonderful story.


  7. eric says:

    Good job

  8. HELEN says:


  9. Amy says:

    I am so proud of you young lady. You did not make excuses or let your background get in your way of achieving your goals. Keep reaching higher and blessing others.

    Good luck on your awesome future!

  10. kim says:

    Here is the prime example of rising above. If you choose to, you can make a better life for yourself and those that come after you. Life is a struggle. It’s worth it. Go Shonnetta!

  11. Andrea says:

    Great job Shonetta. You deserve the recognition. Stay focused and on track and the world is your oyster baby! Congratulations.

  12. carolyn says:

    great job!

  13. j mcguire says:

    very impressive — your are an example of the type of young leaders that our community and country need — keep up the good work remain focus and caring you will continue to go far — good luck —

  14. Ayofemi says:

    How awesome. Continue to be an inspiration Shonnetta, the world needs you.


  15. wecare000 says:

    Continue to follow your heart sweetie. The sky is the limit….Good Luck

  16. Jacie Weston, Jr. says:

    You go girl!!

    With all the negative stories about young African-Americans that permeate the media, it is great to read a very positive story about our community for a change.

    All the best to you!

    Jacie Weston, Jr.

    Chicago, IL

  17. Jacie Weston, Jr. says:

    Queston for Shonnetta:

    What do you consider the single most difficult obstacle in your life right now, that if removed, could help you achieve your dream of success?

  18. Jamara - Los Angeles, CA says:

    Congrats on all of your success. It’s good to see a young person like yourself to defeat the odds and win.

  19. Shamara Ijames says:

    I am very proud of you. Please keep up the very impressive work.

  20. Shari in Alabama says:

    You go girl! I love the Boys and Girls clubs of America for being there for our kids and YOU!!!

  21. c says:

    It is a wonderful thing that you are doing. Keep up the good work!

  22. Betsy says:

    Wow! What an inspiration you are, Shonnetta. I encourage you to stand firm and strong as new challenges come your way. What inspired you and gave you the strength to make it where you are today?

  23. T says:

    This is AWSOME! What an honor, Just as the future President Barack Obama is about to make his mark in history:) Live each day to the fullest and cherish every moment as if it is your last….oh yeah, and take plenty of pictures and video clips!:)

  24. Angela says:

    Congratulations to Shonnetta Henry!
    It is exciting to read about the successes of young people. Shonnetta’s hard work, determination and creativity have lead her to overcome any challenge she encounters. She is an inspiration to young and old. I look forward to more media about Shonnetta’s accomplishments in the future. She has definitely set the standard for others to follow. Keep leading Shonnetta!

  25. Mirtha says:

    Good luck in everything Shonetta!
    You are an example of the American Dream and you gotten this far because of your caring heart and hard work.

  26. MZ says:

    Shonnetta, you are an example for those who find it difficult to succeed even when they have all the opportunities served in a silver plate.

  27. Latasha says:

    So many children are born into poverty and most kids would look at their situation and think they can’t do or be of any importance to this world. What were some of the qualities that your mother, or mentor, instilled in you that made you believe you can succeed and be anything that you want to be?

  28. Perk2488 says:

    Can you come talk to my daughter?

  29. sandra says:

    Way to go Shonnett

  30. Edwards Family says:

    WONDERFUL!!! WONDERFUL!!! WONDERFUL!!! It’s always a blessing to hear positive things happening for our young black youths! The media would have you believe it’s always negative. Way to go Shonnetta – keep up the good work!

  31. Karen M. says:

    Great job Shonnetta! It is always wonderful to see young adults overcome adversity. I know that many people will be inspired by your success. Keep up the good work.

  32. Verlia Caldwell says:

    Shonnetta, I am so proud of you. When I taught an Life Skills Program for welfare recipients, I would share encouraging stories like yours with the class. Keep up the good work, and trust in God. You will succeed in whatever you pursue. God Bless You.

    Mrs. V. Caldwell

  33. Sheila says:


  34. Evelyn says:

    Hi Shonnetta, congratulations on all your accomplishments….

    Here’s my question.
    How would you inspire youths on other continents, expecially Africa? What approach would you use there that won’t necessarily work here in the States, and why?


  35. Elle says:

    It is so encouraging and uplifting to read about a young person doing something positive. Good luck to you Miss Henry! Perhaps we will see you on a Presidential ticket in the future. =)

  36. Toni from St. Louis, MO says:


    With all the road blocks, how did you remain so positive and what advice would you give to teenage girls today that have similar situations to yours.

    Thank you.

  37. Damon J says:


    On behalf of myself & my company, I just want to applaud you for keeping a level head & being focused on what you could change & not accepting your circumstances. There are too many people of high society that would just count you out or feel sorry for circumstances like yours but do nothing. I actively work with youth for them to see the God given potential in themselves.

    God Bless You & we look forward to hearing more great things about your life & the lives you affect in the future.

  38. Ahyauna Ellis says:

    I just want to congradulate Shonette, and let her know that she is very inspiring. Keep up the good work Shonetta and God Bless!!!! You have already made a big difference.

  39. pcn says:

    Because of your determination and example of someone who worked her way out of a tough situation, a dad in jail, and a mom who struggled single and alone, you are a great example to many.

    Keep representing what is good, strong and proof that all things are possible when you are determined to not be put in a box.

    You go girl!

  40. ebe says:

    When God is on your side no one stand your way………you are an example to God promises to his people. keep going girl

  41. vanessa says:

    WOW!! I’m sooooo happy someone this young has succeeded this much after coming from a rough background. I know what it’s like to grow up hard as well. but, i havnt given up yet. i am now 17 and i am a senior in high school and ill be the first one to graduate in my family. People like Shonnetta make me proud and inspire me to keep my head up no matter what. :]

  42. Kendra says:

    This story really has given me hope to do what I have to do no more excuses I want to do something with my life and if I know she can do it then I could do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

  43. Wanda Morris says:

    Just want to commend you on your success.

  44. Jamila says:

    Just wanted to say how proud I am of your accomplishments. I’m sure we’ll hear more from you in the future. Keep of the good work!
    God Bless You!!!

  45. Tiffany says:

    Shonetta Henry You sooooooooo Rock!!! Keep up the great work we need more posiive young people like yourself to come forward. Thanks to CNN for this blog and for recognizing the Youth our future!!

  46. SD Underwood says:

    Your positive and go for it attitude shines through. Keep in going through all of your endeavors and you will know nothing but success.

  47. JA says:

    I am so glad to see a young black woman on the rise. May God continu eto bless you and let your star rise highere and higher!!!

  48. eric osborne says:


  49. Yenoh says:

    My heart is smiling right now. You are such an inspiration!!!

  50. CHJ says:

    The key to success is to stay focus, have a clear vision, aimed high, stay prayerful, listen and observe…..

    GREAT JOB!!!!!!!

  51. Kytana says:

    good things come to those who strive for it! congratulations and keep your eyes on the prize! keep knocking down those doors!

  52. Leon says:

    Congratuations, I can only imagine how your parents feel. Its almost bringing tears to my eyes and I never meet you. Keep up the good work and the sky is the limit.

  53. Traci says:

    Keep up the great work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. Kenisha says:

    Shonetta, you are blessed and highly favored. Keep walking the path of rightousness and all you wish upon will be given unto you!

    Wishing you Gods Speed……..

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2008

  55. sheila moore says:

    Keep up the good work!! I pray God be with…every step!

  56. Jason says:


    Congratulations! That is so much more by 18 than I can say for 33 years! 🙂

    Imagine where you will be by the time you are like 25 or 30? Maybe the oval office will be YOURS!

  57. Felicia Arriaga says:

    Shonetta you deserve the title and I loved getting to know you. You will change the world and thanks for sharing your story with us.

  58. Jason says:

    Hey Ms. Henry, keep moving forward…you and others like you are the type of warriors our community’s future depends on!

  59. danaham says:

    good girl please go on don’t stop!

  60. scott carreathers says:

    congratulations on your achievement and remember african american student services is here to support you in all you do while at unm.

  61. Amy says:

    Congrats Shonnetta! I am so glad there are organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs to give kids support and guidance, and am thrilled this organization helped in your success. Question: So many young people seem to feel that the choices they make today don’t matter, that there will be plenty of time to “do right” later. How can we convince our young people to get started NOW on building a better future for themselves and for our nation?

  62. Freddy says:

    Shonnetta, in reading your story, I understand the Boys & Girls Club saved your life. Would you please pinpoint what area of the club you credit the most for your success. Great Job and congratulations.

  63. hubert says:

    Shonetta, you are a very smart and intelligent young lady and already a leader. You are doing great and will accomplish big things when you finish college. Listening to you, I mean the way you answered to Nicole’s questions, you are a star, a bright star. God be with in your schooling and wishing you all the best. Stay focus and keep your smile always. Remember, if you can conceive you can achieve it. THINK BIG. GOOD JOB young sister.

  64. willie says:

    Your story is amazing. Good job and Good Luck. People like you make America proud. God Bless!

  65. Coriey Evans says:

    I just want to say congratulations to you and all of your hard work. I came from a similar situation. I am now 24 years old with a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and Criminal Justice. So anything is Truley possible.

    God Bless!!!!!!!!

  66. Charisse says:


    You give the people of the world HOPE. We need it desperately, especially now. Thank you for never giving up. Good luck to you in your studies at the university.

  67. Tanya Poteet says:

    YOU GO GIRL!!! It is great to know people like you make a difference in other kids life. That is such an incredible story to share with others. You did an awesome job. Good luck in everything else you are doing. God has such an amazing plan for your life. Keep up the good work. Thank you for serving others and showing hope.

    In Christ,


  68. Joelle Niedecken says:

    Keep on reaching down and pulling people up and out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You DO ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :o)

    You’re sewing seeds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  69. penny says:

    way to go girl.keep it up.also remember that god first&you secondand he will take you all the way to the top.

  70. Lindsay Wragg says:

    i hope you are doing good.
    hey prayed for me to do good as you.
    you are a reallly good person.

  71. Mia Powell says:

    I’m so proud of you young lady keep up the good work, and you will go far.

  72. Jo says:

    This is a fantastic story and example of what youth and or adults may accomplish. If Shonnetta can accomplish this great success without the aid of higher class american dollars and less taxation, why can’t others?
    Why does the high class need to “spread the wealth”. I strongly believe the answer is they don’t. Lower class citizens can gain wealth and prosperity. Just take a look at Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest women of today. She came from extreme poverty. The lower class has the same opportunities to succeed as the higher class has to fail.

  73. Carla says:

    Job well done young lady! I am so proud of you and I don’t even know you but it takes a lot of courage and strength in you to overcome your life style and millions of young people that grow up in the same situation as you. God bless you!

  74. Dawn says:

    May God continue to use you in many mighty and wonderous ways! Shonnetta you are a true blessing! May the Word of God dwell richly in your heart from hour to hour, so all may see you triumph only through His power – Wilkinson

  75. Tang says:

    I just read your article on “voting the first time” (11/4 CNN). Great writing! You have given hope to younger and older generations!

  76. jaime says:

    I hope you keep on succeeding in your life. And for you to for fill your dreams.
    Your family must be proud of you.

  77. Keontre says:

    That’s cool how she came from a long way to be in the boy’s & girls club. It takes a lot of courage and strength in you to overcome your life problems. All young people that grow up in the same situation as you, have the chance to be successful.

    Student from East Middle School

  78. virginia says:

    what about cole scego, the furniture maker who donates so much time to the rural youth of missouri, teaching them organic gardening and promoting recycling

  79. michaelmo2 says:

    you are a very beautiful sucessfull young lady because you went threw more than i have ever had in my life.

    Mrs.Britt student

  80. Marissa says:

    Wow. It must have been tough to make your way to the top. You even got to stand up for the youth and discuss our issues with President Bush himself. I know your parents must have been proud of you. I cannot wait until I get the chance to go to college. I would like to know something though. What exactly did you do in the Boys and Girls club that probably changed your life? Anyway, I hope you keep being successful in college. Good luck!

  81. allegra says:

    I think it is a wonderful thing what Shonetta is doing but I have a question. If I wanted to do something to help someone as big as you did where can I start at the age of twelve.

    -Ms.Britt`s student

  82. Monica from Mrs. Britt's Class says:

    Wow!! That’a really inspiring! I would love to get with the president-elect and talk politics! How did she get from a poor girl to the girl who is living her dreams? How would you ever get to meet the president-elect and talk to him? Shonette Henry is a very intellegent woman and has the perspective of acheiving her dreams. That’s what I would like to do. But where do you start?

    -East Middle School

  83. Allegra says:

    I think it’s a wonderful thing what Shonetta is doing but I have a question. If I wanted to do something to help someone as you did where can I start at the age of twelve?

    -Ms. Britt’s Student

  84. Monica from Mrs. Britt's Class says:

    Wow! That’s really inspiring! How do you go from being a poor girl, to out in the world living your dreams? How do you get started? I would love to go and sit down and talk with the president-elect! Shonnette has a perspective of continuing to achieve her dreams and be the best she can be. That’s exactly what I want to do in the present time and in my future.

    -East Middle School

  85. Karen says:

    Shonetta Henry is amazing for helping all those people and for staying strong all through her difficult childhood. She is a very good role model for every one.

    -Mrs. Britt’s Student

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