Born in Vietnam, Andy Dao was a reserved child and uncomfortable in social situations when he moved to Arizona. That all changed seven years ago when Dao joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Rose Lane Branch.
The club nurtured Dao’s passions for art, music and sports. He gained confidence, friends and teammates, and is a part of several community service clubs, including Keystone.
Dao is one of eight outstanding youth who will be honored at The Celebrate Youth Saturday, March 31 at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. One of those youth will be selected to advance to the state Youth of the Year competition.
The gala is the Club’s premier fundraising event. Individual tickets are $125. The black tie event begins with a hosted bar at 5:30pm, followed by dinner, a live auction and the Youth of the Year Ceremony.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale provide youth development services that instill strong core values and life-enhancing skills in a safe environment. The programs help promote healthy lifestyles, good character and academic success. For more information, visit bgcs.org.
Seven years ago, I was nine years old, a child by most standards. I was unable to understand the complexity of being social unlike my peers who had appeared to have intuitively grasped it. Seven years ago, I was lazy and lethargic. I was content with sitting around by myself, observing others enjoy themselves. I knew full well that it could be me but I didn’t have any drive or desire to make an effort to change. Seven years ago, I enjoyed being alone. I kept others away and it was fine with me. Growing up with just my mother, I didn’t need additional people in my life. Seven years ago, that had all started to change for me.
This was when I first attended the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, Rose Lane Branch. I didn’t become social overnight, but I began to develop my own interests. These included art and music. Art and music were perfect for me at the time. It didn’t require close proximity with others. Not only that, it was calming and relaxing. In the Art Room, I became heavily involved with art. Painting, sketching, and sculpting became an everyday thing. I would come in everyday to use their supplies. At the Club, I learned to play four different instruments; guitar, violin, piano, and bass guitar. There was always an instrument laying around that I wanted to play. I had even joined my school orchestra for years until I managed to join the Symphonic Orchestra at Saguaro High School. The person who sparked my interest in guitar was actually a staff at the Boys & Girls Club. I had a brand new side to me. I had something that distinguished me from others my own age.
Despite this however, I was still devoid of connections. I knew many people but I didn’t have anyone I was close to. This was quickly solved by sports, particularly basketball and soccer. They have a necessity of coordinating with each other on our teams to properly perform even the most elementary things. These were team sports, meaning that they required communication between players for success. For the duration of each game, I had a group that I was included in. I talked to them, I encouraged them, and I either succeeded or failed with them.
Today, I am sixteen years old. A teenager, to some, a young adult to others. Today, I have friends who I have known for seven years. Friends who have been through thick and thin with me. These are the same friends who I have played soccer and basketball together with everyday for years. Today, I have a room full of art supplies and personal works. Today, I will no longer simply observe others and no more will I be subject to the loneliness I have grown out of. Because today, I am no longer the boy I was seven years. Today, I am the result of the Club, the collection of lessons I have learned, and the challenges I have faced. Thank you.
Next: Youth of the Year finalist Alyssa Coughenou.