ARLINGTON, Texas - Brooklyn Gagnon of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Julian Salinas of Richmond, Texas, have been selected by the International Bowling Campus Youth Committee as the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Youth Ambassadors of the Year.
The annual award recognizes one female and one male USBC Youth bowler for exemplary academic accomplishments, community involvement and contributions to the sport of bowling outside of league or tournament play.
Winners are chosen based on submitted applications, and each will receive a $1,500 scholarship.
Gagnon, 18, is a senior at Lincoln High School, where she maintains a 3.9 GPA, challenging herself academically with a variety of accelerated and Advanced Placement classes and a focus on mathematics. She is a member of the National Math Honor Society and intends to build upon her classroom skills at Wichita State University, majoring in mathematics/statistics, with a minor in accounting.
"This is a very prestigious award, and I was super excited to be chosen, because it shows that all the work is being recognized, not only in Sioux Falls, but nationally, and that really means a lot," said Gagnon, who also will bowl collegiately for Wichita State. "Heading into college and into the next stage of my career, this definitely will be a boost for my confidence. I hope to continue to learn and potentially get my foot in the door with the IBC Youth Committee. It would be an honor to serve at the highest level."
Gagnon currently serves as a youth director on the Sioux Falls Regional USBC Board of Directors, helping implement ideas for growing and promoting youth bowling in the area.
As part of the Programs Committee, she is responsible for getting the word out about the organization's upcoming events. Her service includes being part of the Audit/Finance, Youth and Publicity Committees.
In 2019, Gagnon put all her skills to use in the facilitation of the Next Big Thing Scholarship Tournament, an event that drew more than 50 youth bowlers from multiple states to Sioux Falls and awarded more than $5,000 in scholarship money.
Along with rallying her fellow youth bowlers to join her on the lanes and at events, or offering tips as a mentor to youth bowlers under 12, Gagnon has been able to help the local community in many ways through the Bowling Volunteer Group. Her volunteering efforts include working with Feeding South Dakota, Rake the Town, the Sioux Falls Marathon, Project Warm Up and the Serve & Learn Student Association.
On the lanes, she was named South Dakota Bowler of the Year in 2018 and 2019. She has a high game of 300 and a high series of 763 and has challenged herself by seeking out top-tier youth events, including local and state scholarship tournaments, the Chicago-area's Elite Youth Tour and Storm Youth Championships.
Gagnon recently helped Lincoln High School to its second girls state bowling championship, a feat she also accomplished twice as a member of the bowling team at Roosevelt High School. She also has been named the 2021 South Dakota Star of Tomorrow.
In the future, Gagnon hopes to build on all the activities and passions that helped her become a 2021 USBC Youth Ambassador of the Year.
"One of my top goals is to be on the PWBA Tour one day, and I know bowling at Wichita State will help with that," Gagnon said. "I also take incredible pride in my schoolwork, and I love numbers, so I hope that allows me to someday work in banking. No matter what, I'll always love bowling and promoting the sport. I plan to continue serving on the local board, and hopefully at the national level, where I can continue to learn and contribute."
Salinas, also 18, is a senior at Churchill Fulshear High School and a 2020 inductee into the National Honor Society. He has a 4.1892 GPA and is ranked 87th in his class of 363 students.
His academic excellence and bowling goals led him to the Savannah College of Art & Design, where he'll bowl collegiately and major in user experience (UX) design, which focuses on how people interact with products and the quality of their experience with those products.
"I was honored just to be nominated for this award," Salinas said. "To find out the news, there was a lot of excitement and some validation in seeing all of the hard work starting to pay off."
Salinas also is a skilled artist and musician, often using his skills or creations to help raise money at fundraisers or charity events.
For the last few years, his artwork has been auctioned off to raise money during a variety of local and regional bowling events, including the annual Professional Bowlers Association/Professional Women's Bowling Association Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles Tournament in Houston.
"Especially with school, I've always tried to make each thing I do my top priority," Salinas said. "I also love being able to give back and use my skills, like art and music, to help others or make a difference in my community. And, I enjoy any opportunity I get to promote the sport, whether it be at school, or in general, to help let people know all the great things that can come from bowling."
Salinas has found continued success on the lanes, as well, collecting wins at a variety of local, regional and state events and finding the spotlight on the national stage with a Teen Masters victory in 2019 and a top-four finish in the U15 division at the Junior Gold Championships in 2018.
He has a high game of 300 and has multiple USBC-certified 800 series to his credit, but Salinas' impact in the bowling community also translates beyond the scoreboard. He also spends time coaching younger bowlers and serves as a league officer.
Whether it's on the lanes or off, Salinas loves supporting the sport and his fellow bowlers. That includes throwing strikes or setting up events, so others can have a memorable tournament experience.
"I've always loved the sport and all the things about it, even if I'm at an event, and I'm not the one bowling," Salinas said. "I just love being in the environment and being involved in every way possible."
Gagnon and Salinas will be recognized in April during the virtual 2021 USBC Convention.
This year's award ceremony, which includes a variety of awards for youth and adult bowlers, will take place virtually April 28 from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Eastern.
A similar presentation will be held at the same time April 27 for award winners from 2020. The 2020 Convention was canceled due to COVID-19.
Visit BOWL.com/ScholarshipsAwards to learn more about scholarship opportunities for youth bowlers.