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Mayra Cardenas earns Youth of the Year title




The 2011-2012 Youth of the Year award recognizes Boys and Girls Club members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, character and service to the clubs and community.

Youth of the Year winner with Chief Kevin Belk and Executive Director Dave Emenheiser.

Youth of the Year winner with Chief Kevin Belk and Executive Director Dave Emenheiser. /Boys and Girls Club

2011-2012 Youth of the Year Winner: Mayra Cardenas

2011-2012 Youth of the Year Winner: Mayra Cardenas /Boys and Girls Club

Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

Recently, three local teens from the Seidman and Steil Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids competed in the 2011-2012 Youth of the Year competition held at Fifth Third Bank’s Gillett Auditorium. Held annually, this competition recognizes members who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, character and service to the Clubs and Community. Among those selected as finalists, the night acknowledged those who truly embody what it means to be a member of Boys & Girls Clubs.

The three candidates to compete were: Mayra Cardenas, a 17-year-old senior; Paris Madison, a 16-year-old junior; and Daniel Vargas, a 17-year-old junior. Each Club member submitted applications that contained two personal essays and 12 reference letters in areas such as Home and Family, Moral Character, Community, School, Service to the Club, Life Goals, Obstacles Overcome, Essays, Poise and Public Speaking. Candidates were then interviewed by the judges who rated them based on their written and verbal responses, and their knowledge about the Club.

In her opening speech, Cardenas spoke highly of her experiences at Boys & Girls Clubs, stating, “I came into the Club just wanting a place to hang out and have fun with friends, but over a period of time it became much more than that … The Club has been there for me in the good times and in the bad times. Whether I needed advice of just someone to talk to, everyone there was always there for me.”

After thoroughly reviewing applications and finally presenting a speech to 85 members of the community that included donors, club members, staff and community partners, Cardenas was awarded the honor of Youth of the Year. As a lead sponsor of the event, Fifth Third Bank provided a $1,000 scholarship to Cardenas that will be dedicated for her studies at Grand Valley State University later this fall.

To conclude the evening’s speech, Cardenas left motivated and positive for her future. Thankful for Club staff and her mother who have always worked hard to provide her opportunities, she wrote, “now it’s my turn to succeed and give them someone to be proud of in return.” She will go on to compete at the state level and then potentially at the national Youth of the Year competition.


Article by Ashten Wilkens.

BGC Grand Rapids

Reports on: Events, news, and community involvement connected to Boys & Girls Clubs of GR

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