He has stumbled and fallen, but is finally starting to soar. “I fell. I got back up and flew away,” he said. “The Boys and Girls Club helped me.”

Two years ago, Andrew says he was an uncontrolled teenager with divorced parents. He dropped out of school, dropped out of the local Boys and Girls Club and dropped out of life in general.

“I did nothing,” Andrew said. “I did bad stuff.”

His older brother, Chris, wanted him back in school and back in the club, but even pleas from his role model and best friend failed.

It took Chris’ death from a car accident in 2002 – just days after getting the Maine Youth of the Year award – to wake Andrew up.

Now 18, Andrew is in high school and planning to attend college. He has a part-time job coaching basketball at the Boys and Girls Club of Auburn-Lewiston.

And earlier this month, the Boys and Girls Club presented him with the same honor it bestowed upon his brother: Maine’s Youth of the Year.

No one cared’

Born just 10 months apart, Andrew and Chris were the closest of brothers.

“You know what it’s like when you have a best friend sleep over? It was awesome. I had that every night,” Andrew said.

Andrew was 13 and Chris was 14 when the pair first wandered into the local Boys and Girls Club at 43 Second St. looking for a game of basketball.

Life had taught the boys to rely on each other. The Boys and Girls Club taught them they weren’t alone.

“We felt we were wanted here more than anyplace else,” Andrew said.

But after a couple of years, Andrew started to pull away. He dropped out of school and left the club. Nothing seemed worth the effort.

“No one cared, so I didn’t either,” he said. “That’s what I thought.”

Even Chris, his funny, athletic older brother, couldn’t reach him.

“He even made a deal he’d pay for my (driver’s) permit if I went back to school,” Andrew said. “I tried for a week, then I left. It was too hard.”

But despite Andrew’s problems, Chris never seemed to give up on his little brother. When named Maine’s 2002 Youth of the Year, Chris predicted a similar honor for Andrew.

“He said You know what? This is going to be Andrew in a couple of years,'” Andrew said. “He always wanted me to do better. But I didn’t believe I could be as good as he was.”

Days after receiving the award, Chris was killed in a car accident. It was a jolt that Andrew couldn’t throw off.

Paying a visit

Andrew moved in with his older sister, then his father. He enrolled in Auburn’s Franklin Alternative School and got a part-time job at a local McDonald’s.

Last October, Andrew went by the Boys and Girls Club for a visit. The new director invited him to stick around as a volunteer basketball coach.

“His face just lit up,” said Director Sherri Goulet.

Andrew, a dynamic young man with an infectious grin, quickly became an indispensable volunteer and a role model to younger members. He was hired to run the Club’s athletic programs.

After a few months, Goulet encouraged him to apply for Maine Youth of the Year.

“He’s just a phenomenal young man,” she said. “He’s grown so much this year.”

Andrew was one of 12 Maine kids who applied for the award. In his speech to the judges, Andrew said he has been like a bird learning to fly.

He will now compete for the regional title. If he wins, he will go on to the national level, where first prize is a $10,000 scholarship.

It’s money that Andrew could put to use. After graduating from high school next year, he plans to attend college for a career in sports medicine.

But even if he doesn’t win regional or national Youth of the Year, Andrew is happy with his current success.

“It feels good. Chris said I could do it, but I didn’t think I could,” he said. “I did it for him.”

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