Damaria Gurley should be an inspiration not just for students in the Golden Isles, but everyone who has faced substantial obstacles in their lives.

The Brunswick High senior earned the Youth of the Year title for the state from the Boys and Girls Club. She is the first member of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia to win the highest accolade the club offers.

The competition took place over three days in Atlanta and consisted of Gurley going through interviews and giving a speech she wrote. When you talk to Gurley, it’s easy to see how she would impress in an interview.

Her humble nature was evident when she talked to The News about achieving such a high honor.

“Before this accomplishment, this accolade, I’d never really given myself the credit for all the work that I was putting in,” Gurley said.

Gurley has worked hard to earn the honor. The award recognizes students who work hard, invest in themselves and demonstrate leadership in their schools, clubs and communities. Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to overcome your circumstances.

Gurley told The News that she grew up in a violent community and lost many loved ones when she was growing up. She also survived a bout of meningitis that had doctors telling her she may never play sports or possibly never walk again. Her speech in the competition focused on how she overcame the odds.

“I was basically just speaking on how, when you’re young and you go through so much pain, you kind of get used to it … You’re so used to pain that you know it’s going to happen again,” Gurley said. “That’s what you’re counting on. So I kind of grew up that way.”

Her remarkable outlook on life has carried her to a brighter future. The easy thing would have been for Gurley to give up but through hard work and determination, she has carved out a nice future for herself.

Right now, she is planning to attend college to pursue a criminology degree and to join the U.S. Navy. Up first, though, is the southeast regional competition in June.

We’d like to congratulate Gurley on her impressive achievement. We also applaud the work of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia, whose programs help make sure a promising future isn’t out of reach for students like Gurley.

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