If it seems like folks were celebrating Khadija’s Murphy’s win as Boys & Girls Club of the Crescent Region’s Youth of the Year just a few weeks ago, that’s because it was just a few weeks ago. Four, to be exact.
Now, Khadija, a senior at Camden High School (CHS), is celebrating being named the Youth of the Year for the entire state of South Carolina. She received the honor April 26 on the first day of the state organization’s annual convention in Myrtle Beach.
The honors mean Khadija is also racking up scholarship money, having earned $2,500 for the Crescent Region title and another $5,000 for the state title. She will compete for the honor of being the Southeast Regional’s Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year in Atlanta on June 19. If she wins there, Khadija would receive another $10,000 scholarship and move on to the national competition in Washington, D.C., for the chance to be the National Youth of the Year and earn a $25,000 scholarship.
For now, though, Khadija is concentrating on two things: getting ready for Atlanta, and getting ready to graduate from CHS. She plans to attend the College of Charleston to pursue a biology degree.
“I already have 30 college credits; I started during my junior year and have also gone during the summer,” Khadija said in the Jackson Teen Center’s (JTC) 3.5 Room.
Winning the Crescent Region and S.C. state Youth of the Year titles was due to a combination of accomplishments on Khadija’s part. Part of the criteria include maintaining a high grade point average (try a 4.7), but also giving back to the community (in her case, the JTC), and having a humble spirit.
Khadija is vice president of the JTC’s Keystone Club and participated in the creation of the documentary series “Making a Conversation.” As a freshman, Khadija participated in a “Conversation” that worked to bridge the gap between county youth and members of law enforcement, especially in the wake of several high profile deaths of African Americans by police officers across the country.
Now, she’s working on another “Conversation” piece on bullying and suicide prevention.
“Youth need to know that they should talk to people. It’s to get them being comfortable about being open about it and not hold it in,” Khadija said.
JTC Executive Director Brian Mayes the work Khadija is doing is aimed at changing the culture and perspective about these topics.
“We can’t change how we feel about it, but we can change how we deal with it,” Mayes said, adding that he is thinking of making the Keystone Club and the 3.5 Room an organization and space where teens can be comfortable talking about bullying and suicide.
Mayes also said that when Khadija went through the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice’s Job Readiness Training Program -- which his wife, Roberta, oversees the program from within the JTC -- she not only worked for the center, but helped tutor older students.
As part of her Youth of the Year work for the state title, Khadija had to write three essays: one on health, another on her “personal brand,” and the third about her vision for America. She also had to go through an interview process and give a speech. She had to give the speech twice -- once before a small group of judges and again in front of a large audience -- about how her mother, who is single, returned to school to get her degree so she could get a better job to better provide for Khadija and her brother.
Khadija’s work toward her academic and Youth of the Year goals has all been done while helping take care of a grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease.
While she’s both eager and nervous about Atlanta, there are some fun things connected to being named Youth of the Year for South Carolina. She got to throw out the first pitch at a recent Columbia Fireflies baseball home game.
As for school, Khadija is gearing up for end of course tests and graduation on June 1. The biology degree she plans to pursue is in hopes of becoming a doctor of some sort -- either a trauma surgeon on OB/GYN.
“I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I think I could be a trauma surgeon because I’m fast at thinking on my feet.”
That could also help her as she aims to become the Southeast’s Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year in Atlanta in June and, perhaps, in Washington, D.C., win the national title.