Author Archives: Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Alex Espinoza

Alex Espinoza, a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley Grant Woods Branch – Mesa since 2010, is a leader and a dependable person when things get tough.

As the oldest of three boys in a traditional, Mexican-American household, he helped his family cope when his beloved twin Aunts Maria and Francesca lost their battles with breast cancer.

Alex Espinoza. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley.

Espinoza would like to go to medical school and to one day find a cure for breast cancer.

He is one of eight outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year on Feb. 27. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

Espinoza uses the leadership skills he learned at the club to help staff as an office aide at Riverview High School, where he is a senior. He also showed great initiative in starting a monthly school clean-up program within the student council, where he was elected to the position of class representative.

Espinoza is the vice-president of the Keystone Club, where he’s helped get donations for its Guardians for Kids Breakfast.

He wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a concentration in medicine from Arizona State University or another university, then complete medical school.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Sache Foster

Sache Foster has learned to become a better citizen in her community, state and nation because of her experiences at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley  Gila River Branch – Sacaton.

Sache Foster. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley.

Foster is one of eight outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year on Feb. 27. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

Since Foster joined the club 11 years ago, staff members have motivated her to get involved with basketball, cheerleading, flag football and other programs, in which she earned several awards. She also is a leader for the Keystone Club, where she helped raised money to go to regional, state and national conferences.

Foster is a member of the Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council, a group of young people from each of the seven districts of the Gila River Indian Community. Members of the group plan events for the community and work alongside district and tribal members to help solve issues.

Foster, a Coolidge High School senior, has overcome numerous obstacles to stay in  stay in school, including stopping smoking and drinking. She wants to urge other teens to find more positive activities rather than using drugs and alcohol.

Now Foster looks forward to graduating high school and going to college. She plans to continue being a positive influence on the Gila River Indian Community, her family and her peers.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Erin Saltzman

Pancakes for PCH

The International House of Pancakes will once again host National Pancake Day on Tuesday, Feb. 28 to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Donations made at IHOPs in the Phoenix area will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

More than 1,500 IHOP restaurants throughout the United States will serve customers a free short stack of pancakes from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Customers are then encouraged to make a voluntary donation.

In IHOP’s seventh year of fundraising, the company hopes to raise at least $2.7 million nationwide. Hospitals will use the money to purchase equipment and to fund different procedures and treatments for seriously ill or injured children.

All month, participating IHOPs also have been selling “Miracle Balloons” to guests for $1 and $5 each to jumpstart the fundraising effort.

To find a local location or to make a donation online, visit www.ihoppancakeday.com.

Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Nick Groth

Nick Groth is an advocate against bullying and a role model for others. He is also one of eight outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year.

Nick Groth. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley

Groth joined the Gilbert Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley 11 years ago.

Now a junior at  Gilbert High School, he participates in football and wrestling and is known for taking a stand against bullying. After some of his peers started teasing a smaller football player who ate out of a trash can for unknown reasons, Groth urged them to stop. He later befriended the victim to make him feel like part of the group.

Groth understands how it feels to be an outcast. In seventh grade, he struggled as a wrestler, losing every match that season. With hard work and determination, he eventually became state champion.

Groth is the youngest of five siblings, but he still looks out for them, especially his brother Chris, who has autism.

Groth’s long-term goal is to become a orthopedic surgeon so he can continue helping others and fulfill his passion for learning about the human body.

He is president of the Keystone Club, a leadership program that helps organizes events in the community. He also serves as a group leader to help members transition from various programs and assists the program staff.

The Youth of the Year event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Lydia DeAnda

Lydia DeAnda, a member of the Gila River-Komatke Branch of the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley, has used her Native American values and traditions to become a role model for others.

Lydia DeAnda. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley.

DeAnda, 16, came to the Club three years ago. She is a member of the Keystone Club, which has helped her stay focused on her goals of graduation high school and being first in her family to complete a college education.

DeAnda is one of eight outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year on Feb. 27. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

The Cesar Chavez High School sophomore discourages other teens from gossiping, instead building positive, honest relationships with her family and friends.

Her compassion and concern for others came from comforting and caring for her siblings during a rocky home life when one of her parents struggled with alcohol and drug use.

Eventually DeAnda and her siblings decided to live with their grandmother during weekdays to attend school, preschool and early childhood services on the Gila River Indian Community while her mother lived and worked in Phoenix.

DeAnda soaked up the wisdom of her mother and grandmother, finding a way to celebrate her heritage and still thrive in modern life.

Now, DeAnda lives with her mother and siblings in the Gila River Indian Community.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Youth of the Year nominee Anastasia Howard

Anastasia Howard has been a role model since her arrival at the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Apache Junction branch.

The 16-year-old helps younger kids with their homework. She has also received an honor at a regional conference for her volunteer work with Keystone Club.

Anastasia Howard. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley.

Howard is one of eight outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year on Feb. 27. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

She believes in treating others how she would want to be treated and shows her compassion, kindness and honesty at church and at home. She volunteers at the daycare center at her church and also teaches classes with special needs children.

Howard also helped paint houses for elderly residents during the Rock N Roll Paint-A-Thon, an event which Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun created.

She has been a role model for her family and peers. Howard often helps her grandmother with tasks around the house along with other things she has a hard time doing on her own.

Howard is a sophomore at Crossroads High, where she participated in the school’s state-champion Model United Nations team. She also supervised a junior high school Model United Nations group that offers civics lessons to students.

After high school, she wants  to pursue her passion for music by studying radio broadcasting at Spellman College in Atlanta, Ga.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Ashley Delgado

Ashley Delgado found the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley’s Compadre Branch – Chandler  when she was 7. Now  17, she helps embrace new teens who want to join.

Ashley Delgado. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley.

She has been in the clubs’ Leadership in Training Program and served as a group leader during a daytime summer camp. As the Keystone Club’s leader she helped raised about $500 for cancer research. She also teamed up with her mother, who works for Community Services of Arizona, to allow the Keystone Club to serve food to folks at the Gilbert Senior Center.

Delgado is one of eight outstanding valley youth vying to become the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Valley’s Youth of the Year on Feb. 27. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held ar 5:30 p.m. at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.

Delgado used to compete in various sports until she was diagnosed with a heart condition last March. This, among other serious obstacles have made her determined and committed to her family. When she was younger, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer; Delgado watched her fight and beat it.

Her neighborhood is also has a lot of gang activity and violence, but Delgado’s parents have helped her stay on track and make good choices.

Delgado is a senior at Chandler Early College, a high school on the Chandler-Gilbert Community College campus, where she takes college classes while still in high school so she can graduate early. Her Keystone Club experience prepared her to serve on the school’s Student Council.

After high school, she would like to earn a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy at Arizona State University. Delgado hopes to work with patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other special needs children.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Valley. For more information visit clubzona.org.

Erin Saltzman

Youth of the Year nominee Zandee Dickinson

Zandee Dickinson, 17, joined the Boys and Girls Club as a safe outlet in her high risk neighborhood.

The Jerry Colangelo Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix gave Dickinson the confidence she was looking for.

Zandee Dickinson. Photo courtesy of Nancy Crase/Crase Photo.

She is one of 12 outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix Youth of the Year during the “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” event Feb. 18. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs introduced me to other teens my age and there was always someone to give a push in the right direction,” Dickinson says.

From getting involved with the club, she was able to gain interpersonal skills and the confidence to be herself.

“Before coming to the club, I was very shy and insecure. Now I’m able to be myself and am known for my outgoing personality. I like standing out and show that in my unique sense of style,” she says.

The Club also helped Zandee develop the leadership skills to become the president of Keystone Club, a leadership and community service club for teens. During her term, she has organized several fundraisers, including care packages for troops and disaster relief.

At Metro Tech High School, Dickinson takes AP English, is a member of Future Business Leaders of America and attended conferences like, “Pursue the Passion.”

“The Boys & Girls Clubs helped me perform better at the FBLA conferences. I have more confidence talking with people and participating in networking events because of the leadership skills I learned at the Club,” she says.

She also volunteers with her family at a rehabilitation center and food centers like St. Mary’s.

“Volunteering in my community gives me a sense of accomplishment and I like knowing I’ve helped others. Being involved in Keystone has taught me so many things… how to plan and organize, how to work with different people and how to make a real difference in my community,” Dickinson says.

After she graduates, Dickinson wants to go to Grand Canyon University and study to become a psychologist or social worker.

“I have a lot of interest in helping others. I know I would be a great help because I can relate easily to other people, and care about what happens to them,” she says.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix’ 12 clubhouses, dental clinic and outreach programs. For more information, visit bgcmp.org.

Youth of the Year: Chelsea McElhenny

When Chelsea McElhenny was in sixth grade, her world was turned upside down.

Her parents had gotten a divorce and that summer she was assaulted by a friend of the family, which led her to many confusing feelings.

“I just wasn’t the same after that,” she says. “I started slipping in school and a lot of my friends had gotten involved with bad crowds. I didn’t have anyone I could really trust.”

Chelsea McElhenny. Photo by Nancy Crase/CrasePhoto.

McElhenny found the the Woodrow C. Scoutten/Tolleson Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix a few blocks away from her house. From the help of mentors and their support, she was able to get back on track in school and her life.

“The club is a life changer,” she says. “Before I had the club in my life, I didn’t really know what it was like to be part of something good.”

McElheeny is one of 12 outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix Youth of the Year during the “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” event Feb. 18. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.

McElhenny is the current vice president of the branch’s Keystone Club, a community service and leadership club for teens. She has volunteered numerous hours to community service projects.

McElhenny also has volunteered her time at the club by helping the younger kids with homework, serving meals and providing assistance with sports.

After she finishes high school, McElhenny plans to attend Arizona State University to become an athletic manager and eventually work for a professional sports team.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix’ 12 clubhouses, dental clinic and outreach programs. For more information, visit bgcmp.org.

Erin Saltzman

Tomorrow: Nominee Ashley Delgado.

Youth of the Year nominee Crystal Ortiz

Crystal Ortiz has been a member of the Spencer D. & Mary Jane Stewart Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. since she was 5 years old.

“I can still remember the first time I went to the Boys & Girls Club, I was painfully shy and hid behind my mother until another little girl asked me to play four-square. By the end of my first day I was already more at ease and outgoing,” says Ortiz, now 17.

Club activities helped Ortiz get more involved with her community and shaped her sense of responsibility.

Crystal Ortiz. Photo by Nancy Crase/CrasePhoto.

Ortiz is one of 12 outstanding Valley youth vying to become the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix Youth of the Year during the “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” event Feb. 18. The event, which ultimately will chose one youth to represent the chapter at the statewide competition, will be held from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.

“At my club, I am able to combine my love of service with my passion for sports through my involvement in Miracle League — a program that helps special needs children participate in sporting activities,” Ortiz says.

She also participates in healthy lifestyle programs, like SMART Girls and Keystone Club. Ortiz is also plays softball at school, is a member in DECA (a business development and preparation club) and Greens Club, which helps with restoring her community.

Ortiz volunteers at her club’s front desk, where she assists with administrative tasks and helps various visitors.

Her position has helped her develop interpersonal and professional skills. She also has gained an internship with an athletic director at her high school, Trevor G. Browne.

“I knew I always wanted to pursue a career in medicine and help people. The Boys & Girls Clubs gave me the tools and confidence to interact with others and pursue my current internship,” she says.

The club also helped Ortiz with her academic career.

“The staff and resources helped motivate me to complete my homework and know I wouldn’t be doing as well in school without it,” she says.

Ortiz plans to attend Gateway Community College to become a physical therapist.

Every year, thousands of children benefit from after-school youth development programs, extended services and community support programs through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix’ 12 clubhouses, dental clinic and outreach programs. For more information, visit bgcmp.org.

Erin Saltzman

Tomorrow: Nominee Chelsea McElhenny.