Danny Gray has been a volunteer, mentor and friend to many at the Haverhill Boys’ Club since he was 6 years old.

This year the 17-year-old Haverhill Alternative School junior received the club’s Youth of the Year award — a distinction bestowed annually on one boy considered a model youth all club members can look up to.

The only person shocked by the announcement was Gray himself.

“It was a surprise,” said Gray, who will have to say good-bye to the club as a member once he graduates from high school. “I don’t really think about it as volunteer work anymore; I’ve been doing it for 12 to 13 years so it’s just second nature. I do it because I live in a foster home with people willing to help me out and give me a home. This is how I can give back to the community.”

But Gray’s volunteerism extends beyond club walls. He helps his church, volunteers at the Citizens Center and works with Rebuilding Together Greater Haverhill Inc. In school, as a member of the Peer Leadership Program, he tutors students and helps resolve conflicts between students.

Brian Theirrien, activities coordinator for Haverhill Boys Club, said Gray does the best job of supporting the club’s goal of guiding boys through childhood and into their teenage years.

“He’s always here with a helping hand and is always willing to volunteer to help train new staff members as well as help our club members,” Theirrien said. “He’s really matured over the years.”

Gray, an aspiring artist who won an international Boys Club photo contest, hopes to attend art school, become an independent artist and someday open his own gallery. Thanks to several art awards and other similar honors, Gray said he has enough in scholarships to carry him to his doctorate degree.

“It’s rewarding; giving people the chance to be where I am now is awesome for me,” Gray said. “The club and my parents (Bill and Karen LaPierre) have been the most important things to me and my success. They helped me through the good and the bad, sent me on the right road and gave me good feedback. You are your own person, but people helping you along the way really make a difference.”

Gray spoke with The Haverhill Gazette:

Birthplace: Haverhill

Pets? Two dogs

Hobbies: Art, tennis

Community involvement: Helped at the Haverhill Boys’ Club for 11 years; consistent volunteer for Rebuilding Together Greater Haverhill Inc., the Haverhill Alternative School and the Citizen’s Center.

What do you like most about your job? I work at my church as well as for a masonry firm. I just like being able to give back to my church and I’m my own boss at my other job.

Best thing about Haverhill? Most of my friends live here, so I can hang out and relax with them and it’s a comfortable environment. Gives me a feeling of being home.

Worst thing? Schools are pretty old and in need of repair.

Something nobody knows about you/would be surprised to find out? I’m a straight-A student and valedictorian every year.

Proudest accomplishment: My international photography award. It was for a portfolio containing a series of five water and ice images. I came in first from all entries from Boys’ Clubs around the world.

Type of entertainment preferred: Playing tennis at my friend’s college.

Favorite entertainer: Adam Savage from “MythBusters.” He is really intelligent and funny.

Favorite TV show: “MythBusters”

Favorite actor: Adam Sandler.

Favorite film: “Click,” starring Sandler.

Kind of music: Alternative rock.

Favorite song: “Disconnected” by Trapt.

Favorite magazines: “National Geographic” because I’m a fan of keeping up with the different things going on around the world.

Favorite books: The “Harry Potter” and “Lemony Snicket” series.

Favorite quote: I heard it at my photography award ceremony, but I don’t know who said it: “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

Pet peeve: I hate when someone interrupts other people talking, especially when the person interrupting doesn’t know what he/she is talking about.

Your tombstone should read: “Give back to others what they’ve given to you” and that is how I tend to live my life.

If you could be anyone else: Bill Gates, the richest man in the world.

Which person, living or dead, would you want to join for dinner and why? Edgar Allen Poe. I’m really into his poetry and would like to hear some of his stories from his own mouth.

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