Melia Gaines, Boys and Girls Club of Cumberland County Youth of the Year, 2020. Photo courtesy of LeVena Scafe.

By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

VINELANDBoys and Girls Club of Cumberland County’s Youth of the Year Melia Gaines has a very personal reason for wanting to major in neonatal nursing and pediatric nursing after graduating from high school.

“Me and my sister were both born prematurely and I just want to give back to the community from where I started from,” Melia told Front Runner New Jersey of her and twin sister Melina Gaines.

If she plans on taking on nursing the way she has done everything else in her young life, Melia Gaines will probably be outstanding at it. The Boys and Girls Club named the Vineland H.S. senior “Youth of the Year” in June.

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Gaines, 17, will receive a $2,000 college scholarship in connection with the honor. She goes into her senior year with a 4.1 grade point average while serving as president of the Keystone Club, which focuses on service. She and her sister are both on the cheerleading squad and dance team.

“For me, [being named youth of the year] has been a great experience,” Gaines said. “I would say it’s one to remember, knowing that I was the one chosen from my area for my club. It’s something that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life.”

Stepping Up

Gaines has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club for more than a decade and has put in more than 800 volunteer hours for various community organizations as well as the club.

“Melia really stepped it up last year,” said LaVena Scafe, education coordinator at Boys and Girls Club. “I remember she took history honors class. She pushed herself and she excelled in that and she got an A in that class. We’re proud of her at the club.

“She’s worked really hard. She’s a local representative for the Youth of the Year and she is planning on competing this year. She just signed up for the National Honor Society. She and her sister are going through that process now too.”

Melia and Melina are both on the staff of Dixon Dance Academy, under former Vineland H.S. dance captain Nancy Dixon. Melia credited her twin sister in helping her prepare for the Youth of the Year award.

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“My family has been very supportive, especially my twin,” Gaines said. “She’s helped me practice my speech, go over the interview questions and things like that.”

Martina and Melvin Gaines are their parents. Martina Gaines said she believed that Melia went above and beyond expectations this year in leading to the Youth of the Year award.

Family Affair

“I know she’s a smart girl and I know she can do whatever, but I try to push her a little more and she always tells me, ‘No, no, no,'” Martina Gaines said. “But I just keep pushing and pushing and she went above and beyond what I even thought. And so I’m so proud of her. She’s a hard worker. Whatever job she’s given, she goes above and beyond and she continues.

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“She keeps going and she keeps looking for more and more to do. So she’s moving forward, but she’s also bringing her sister with her. So I’m very happy and thankful for that.”

Twin sisters Melia and Melina Gaines in dance uniforms. Photo courtesy of LeVena Scafe.

The Boys and Girls Club remains a special place for Melia Gaines. She said she is part of the junior staff, supervising younger children. She said she is very mindful of setting a good example for them being a role model.

“I would say it’s a really big responsibility because I know when I was their age, I looked up to a lot of people at my club, especially the teenagers,” Melia Gaines said. “I would want to be just like them and I’d just say it’s a great experience having someone look up to you.”

Melia Gaines speaks to young students at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland County. Photo courtesy of LeVena Scafe.

Gaines said she plans on attending Rutgers after graduating where she will pursue her nursing degree. She said she continued to get a great deal out of volunteering and helping others.

“It’s just the satisfaction of knowing that what I did made somebody’s day, made somebody happy,” Gaines said.

The nursing world will be getting a great plus when Melia Gaines joins their ranks.

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