Sequoia students win Youth of the Year award

Kelsie Garay, Staff Reporter

Two Sequoia students won the Youth of the Year Award on Jan. 15 at the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula.

Out of the four Sequoia students nominated, senior Ximena Sanchez Martinez was one of the winners of this award, allowing her to represent the local club in the next level of the event.

“I decided to sign up [for Youth of the Year] because I am an undocumented student, and I thought this would be the perfect platform to share my story. That way I can inspire other undocumented students,” Sanchez Martinez said.

Boys and Girls Clubs across the United States nominate members of their programs to represent their clubs. The members of each club who win the local award advance to the state level competition. From there, they will continue on to regionals, and then nationals, until one Youth of the Year is chosen for the entire country. 

“I was excited to hear the stories of my peers, and I am a little bit nervous and excited to move on to the next round because I am going to be representing my clubhouse along with two of my other peers who were chosen by the wild card,” Sanchez Martinez said.

Senior Andres Alas was also able to win the Youth of the Year award through a wildcard spot.

“I think one of the main reasons why I was nominated was because of the way that I present myself. I think that if you carry yourself in a certain way, then a lot of people will listen to you,” Alas said.

The wildcard spot goes to a runner-up Youth of the Year nominee. Judges of the competition look at nominees’ accomplishments and leadership skills to decide who the extra winner is. 

“I think the reason why I am one of the finalists now was because of all of the hard work I have been putting in that maybe not all of the people see,” Alas said. 

“Loving yourself is one thing, but believing you have the power and capability to make something happen or to change your future is really an essential part [of why I won the wildcard spot].”

Senior Ashley Valdovinos-Rodriguez plans on becoming a first-generation college student, which she has been able to make possible through the support and guidance she has received from the Boys and Girls Club’s many programs, including the Youth of the Year program.

“I’ve shown the support that they’ve given me and how much it has impacted my life,” Valdovinos-Rodriguez said.

The Boys and Girls Club created the Youth of the Year program to prepare students for public speaking and becoming strong leaders of their communities. Students in the program prepare a speech that they present in front of hundreds of audience members.

“I didn’t think that it was going to be so intense. There’s a lot of preparation towards the speech you give,” Valdovinos-Rodriguez said.

Students are given mentors that help them with their speeches and to plan their routes to college and beyond.

“I think it’s made me more aware of setting up a path and routine I can stick to to ensure I can become successful when I’m older,” Valdovinos-Rodriguez said. “The support and the friendship that they give you at the clubhouse is amazing, but also the opportunities they provide you with are amazing.”

Alan Guido is the president of the Keystone Leadership program at his local Boys and Girls Club. He has become more confident and outgoing.

“I went in there and I was pretty nervous just for the simple fact that I had to deliver a speech about who I am, but other than that the whole journey and the process of being part of Youth of the Year was pretty amazing,” Guido said. “It helped me grow a lot and helped me step out of my comfort zone at the same time.”

Four Sequoia students were nominated. Top row: Alan Guido; Bottom row: Ximena Sanchez Martinez, Ashley Valdovinos-Rodriguez, Andres Alas