Youth of the Year stands out

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
— Arielle Berghammer, 19, is serious when she says she wants to be president.

Shelton Evans, a former staff member at the Boys & Girls Club in Janesville who worked with Arielle, wouldn’t bet against her.

“Whatever she says, I believe she’ll do it,” Evans said.

Arielle was named 2007 Youth of the Year at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville and was runner-up at the state level.

Arielle became involved in the club as an organizer of the Battle of the Bands at Craig High School. The profits of the event were earmarked for the Boys & Girls Club.

When Arielle visited the club, she and Evans thought the kids would like a chance to dance at the event.

Arielle held dance classes one day a week, sometimes two. “After a while, you get so connected with the kids, you’re just down there hanging with the kids,” she said. “We became a little family.”

Said Evans: “She just became more and more involved.”

The volunteer job turned into a paid job, and Arielle also helped start a dance class at the Beloit club.

“She loves to help people in general, and kids are her passion,” Evans said. “She fell in love with the dynamics and the needs of the kids. They would just be waiting for her.”

Evans said Arielle is nurturing, positive, motivating, enthusiastic and inspirational.

“She’s just a beautiful young lady,” Evans said. “She’s just a blessing.”

Arielle’s last Battle of the Bands event as a senior raised $5,000 for the Boys & Girls Club.

At Craig, Berghammer joined clubs that trumpeted diversity and tolerance. She likes activities that take people from their routines and exposes them to new interests and people.

“I always see people for who they are,” she said. “I definitely see a racial breakdown within Craig. I always wanted to break that barrier.”

Her favorite club was the Blue Ribbon of Promise, a community service group. The group “really focused on bringing people together within the school in hopes that it would cut down on school violence and problems in classrooms,” she said.

Arielle said she discovered a “whole other Janesville” at the Boys & Girls Club.

She believes she had a positive effect on the students she worked with. But they changed her life, as well.

“They opened my eyes to all different kinds of backgrounds and family situations,” she said.

“Sometimes people throw them off to the side,” she said. “But they have so much to offer.”

For instance, she talked of the boy who has been in and out of juvenile facilities but still gets his little brothers to church every Sunday. She talked of the 12-year-old who has been passed through the school system but still can’t read.

“There’s something wrong with this,” she said. “How does someone not notice?”

Janesville’s not the only place with children in need, and Arielle said she wants to make changes on a big level.

She recently joined the Air Force and, early this year, will study to become a linguist. She hopes to eventually work at the United Nations as a peacekeeper, with UNICEF or in an embassy.

“I have goals down the road,” she said.

“How to get there—what happens in between—I’m really pretty open to different experiences.”

Age: 19
Community: Janesville.
Family: Parents, Jean and Mike Berghammer; six brothers and sisters
Goal: “If I feel like I’m doing something for the greater good, that’s where I’m supposed to be.”
Interests: Foreign policy, music, languages, international relations, writing, photography, mass media
Activities at Craig High School: Attended the Janesville Academy of International Studies; a former member of the student council; Blue Ribbon of Promise; Unity through Diversity; Human Relations; National Honor Society; Spanish Honor Society; cheerleading; letterwomen’s club
Guests to a fantasy dinner party: Marilyn Monroe. “I love her. I have a tattoo of her. She really impacted the world ... And Nelson Mandela. I think that man’s just incredible.”
Her gift: Connecting with people, especially with kids
Perfect day: “I like to sleep in. But if it were my perfect day, I’d want it to last as long as possible. I’d probably wake up on the ocean ... Maybe I’d have lunch at a restaurant next to the beach, probably with my whole family. I have a lot of fun when we’re all together ... We’d go to a park with really good roller coasters. And swings. We wouldn’t have to wait in any lines for the roller coasters. All my good girlfriends would go out to dinner somewhere fun. We’d be in London all of the sudden ... We’d go out to dinner somewhere fabulous and go out dancing. We’d have to end up at Janesville’s Perkins. Because Perkin’s is our place.”

Last updated: 1:21 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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