A north Jefferson County woman is competing against four others nationwide for scholarship funds, and she needs votes to win.

Rebekah Koen, a 2014 Gardendale High School honors graduate, is representing the Brookside Boys and Girls Club and the Central Boys and Girls Club of America in the Maytag Dependable Leader Award.

If she wins, Koen and other members of the club will receive $50,000 in scholarship money.

“Her family has faced a lot of obstacles,” said Todd Love, unit director at the Brookside Boys and Girls Club. “She’s been the epitome of excellence and overcoming adversity. It’s been amazing to watch her not let her problems and struggles drag her down.”

While in high school, Koen earned an honors diploma and received several scholarships, despite the fact that she and her family were homeless for three years while she was in high school.

She was named Miss GHS her senior year and won numerous awards.

She started attending the Brookside Boys and Girls Club when she was in seventh grade.

“Ever since she was 13, she has worked and volunteered,” said Love.

At the Boys and Girls Club, Koen started a group called Girl Talk, for girls ages 10 and older.

“She spearheaded that and tried to give the girls a venue to share and talk and impress upon them that they can overcome their problems,” Love said. “She’s a perfect example of that. She’s got a lot of goals and ambitions ahead of her that I’m sure she’ll reach.”

Koen attends the University of Montevallo, where she is studying social work and psychology.

Since she moved into the dorm at Montevallo, Koen is no longer able to volunteer at Brookside. However, she took the Girl Talk program with her to Montevallo, getting permission to start the program at the Boys and Girls Club there. The program starts today.

“Being able to represent the state of Alabama is really an honor. When I signed up, I thought it was just a statewide program,” Koen said about the Dependable Leader contest. “I would have never dreamed of being able to make it this far. It makes me want to be a role model to everyone, especially my program Girl Talk. It’s really making them want to make a difference, too.”

The four other students in the competition are from Los Angeles, Calif.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Columbus, Ga.; and Bridgeport, Conn.

To vote on an individual Maytag Dependable Leader program, visit www.dependableleaders.com.

Individuals can vote once a day through Sept. 19.

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