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Hagerstown youth named state's best

March 13, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

"If you start out struggling, you can have a stronger finish."

When Arthur Claybon heard those words, his own, read back to him Wednesday morning, he knew he was about to be named Maryland's Youth of the Year by the Maryland Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.

The 17-year-old Hagerstown youth jumped out of his seat at the Calvert House Ballroom and dashed to the front of the room to receive a standing ovation from the crowd of about 200.

Claybon was chosen from eight finalists to represent Maryland at the regional competition. He's the fourth local teenager to win in the award's 24-year history, said Boys and Girls Club of Washington County Executive Director James Deaner.

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The captain of the North Hagerstown High School football team described how he's overcome a lot of adversity in his life.

He was raised mainly by his mother, JoAnn Claybon, because his father frequently wasn't around, he said.

"Even though my dad has been on the wrong path, he led by example and showed me that was not the path to take," Claybon said.

Claybon discovered the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County at a young age and went there just about every day to play basketball or just hang out.

Claybon told judges that he would be on the streets if not for the program.

"Whenever you need a place to go to, they're always there with open arms. When you're hungry, they'll feed you," Claybon said.

A few years ago, Claybon could not play on the basketball team because his grades were not good.

He resolved to turn that around and has been on the honor roll ever since, said Darnell Shaffer, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club.

"Arthur has had a tough trip but he's really been a leader," Deaner said.

For example, he convinced the other members of the basketball team to lift weights at the club to get in shape before the season.

After receiving the award Wednesday morning, Claybon walked over to the State House, where he was recognized on the floor of the Senate and House of Delegates.

In the House, there was a squeal of glee from his aunt, Del. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George's.

"He's my baby," she said before giving him a big bear hug.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said that in 1974, before he ran for office the first time, he consulted Claybon's grandfather.

Claybon said he was glad that he could bring positive recognition to the club in return for all the kindness.

He plans to attend college, possibly Salisbury University, to study physical therapy.

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