UM freshman nominated for 2014 Maytag Dependable Leader Award

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By GINNY COOPER MCCARLEY / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO—University of Montevallo freshman Rebekah Koen—who is majoring in social work and psychology—was inspired to pursue a career path in counseling after her family became homeless at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school.

“Even though it was difficult, I’m glad that we went through it because we’ve come out stronger in the end,” Koen said.

When the family moved to the YWCA’s Interfaith Hospitality House, they outlook was “really dim,” but Koen said counselors at the shelter turned things around.

“They encouraged us not to give up,” Koen said. “They gave me a new perspective on life.”

Koen seeks to give others in the community a similar feeling of hope, and founded the program “Girl Talk,” which is designed to give girls a forum to share their feelings and get support from their peers, in 2013.

“The Boys and Girls Club is a great place, but sometimes you can get lost in the crowd,” Koen said, and noted the program is a way to establish “one-on-one time” with the girls and is a “time for bonding.”

Koen’s work with the club has not gone unnoticed, as she was recently nominated for the 2014 Maytag Dependable Leader Award, which “recognizes (Boys and Girls Club) professionals and volunteers who are committed to making a difference in the lives of the youth, and are dependable and exceptional role models,” according to their website.

The winner of the award, which is determined by online voting, will receive $50,000 in scholarships from Maytag, which $20,000 going to further their own education and $30,000 dedicated to the winner’s Boys and Girls Club for scholarships for other club members.

To vote for the Maytag Dependable Leader Award, visit Dependableleaders.com. Voting ends Sept. 19.