Youth of the Year makes contributions beyond self
Deladem Potakey poses with a basketball at the Fort Gregg-Adams Youth Center. He is the facility’s Youth of the Year Award winner for 2022. (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT GREGG-ADAMS, Va. — For fourteen-year-old Deladem Potakey, the memory is still fresh.

The teenager felt uneasy and uncertain last year when he moved to his new home and went to the Fort Gregg-Adams Youth Center for the first time.

His discomfort went away, however, moments after a peer welcomed him with heaping measures of warmth. The kind gesture – despite Potakey’s initial ambivalence – made all the difference in making the newly-arrived youth feel at home.

“I remembered that and want to pass it on,” he said.

He certainly has, said Tyneika Thomas, acting Youth Center director, Child and Youth Services. Potakey recently earned the facility’s Youth of the Year Award for not only his reciprocate receptiveness but his supportive behavior and actions toward fellow patrons and staff.

“No matter what, ‘D’ does not see someone’s outer appearance,” she said. “To him, a person is a person, and he makes that person feel as such. He welcomes everybody and is a friend to anyone.”

Those earning the YOY Award are selected by staff and peers, said Thomas. Leadership, selflessness, compassion and kindness are among the criteria.

Potakey, a student at N.B. Clements Junior High School, said receiving the award was humbling.

“I didn’t think I did a lot, but people were telling me otherwise,” he said. “I felt like I was just helping out.”

Staff members began to take notice of Potakey as a result of his sponsorship work with new patrons. It is helpful to put one in the shoes of others, he said.

“You never know when someone is shy and doesn’t want to be out there,” he said. “That’s how I felt when I first got here. The person who gave me my tour made me feel comfortable.”

The comfort factor has moved Potakey to become a contributor in countless other ways as well. His willingness to support is strong.

“I’m usually not going to say ‘No’ if help is needed,” said Potakey.

That attitude is what makes Potakey stand out, Thomas said.

“He’s been a great asset to our program,” she said. “He continues to encourage others … and I think he will continue to do so.”

Potakey is the son of Staff Sgt. Edem and Florence Potakey.

When he is not providing tours, the native Ghanian spends his time at the Youth Center doing homework and playing basketball and other games with friends.

Potakey aspires to become a robotics engineer, athlete and overall contributor to mankind, either all at once or one at a time and not necessarily in that order, he said.