By Randi Shafton, development and marketing director, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.
Stand in public and share your life's journey in front of 200 people? Get grilled by a panel of community leaders including Menlo Park City Mayor Kirsten Keith; Menlo Park City Council member Richard Cline and Commander Lacey Burt of the Menlo Park Police Department? How many eighth-grade students would be brave enough to do this? At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP), Youth of the Year candidates view it as an honor.
BGCP Youths of the Year are selected based on accomplishments, resiliency, and speaking ability. They exemplify their strengths through an intense series of essays, interviews and speeches. Their tremendous effort and heart are even more impressive knowing that the odds are against them. In the neighborhoods of East Palo Alto, Eastern Menlo Park, and Redwood City over half of the youth do not graduate from high school. The Youths of the Year must overcome these hardships and adversities that plague their community and prove that they are not another statistic.
BGCP Executive Director Peter Fortenbaugh remarked: "Youth of the Year is an amazing experience for our members to share their accomplishments with the community. Their stories are so inspirational." And because BGCP serves all youth, every story is unique:
• Nestor loves riding his bike and feeling the wind race through his hair. Growing up in East Palo Alto, he saw how many children never had the chance to ride a bike. Instead, he witnessed gangs, violence and obesity. Nestor plans to change that by starting a cycling club in his community. In the future, he plans to attend college and open a bicycle shop, where he can share the feeling of freedom he gets when riding a bike. Nestor believes that "passions are great tools to clear your mind from any issues you face. And I know my passions will help me succeed."
• Oscar knows the importance of education. He dreams of a world where immigrant children are supported in school so that they can discover their dreams and find a quality career. Oscar describes our world as one that is full of "obstacles that stop teens from becoming productive members of society." With the right support, "youth can achieve their full potential."
This year, 17 youths competed to be named BGCP's Youth of the Year. Judges were in awe of every candidate's confidence, self-esteem and talent. At the end of the night, Mr. Fortenbaugh announced Oscar as the BGCP Youth of the Year representative, and every youth was celebrated for their great achievement.
Visit bgcp.org or contact Randi Shafton at RShafton@bgcp.org for more information.