Juan Salas, 17, went to his local branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix to play on a basketball league. He stayed because it offered him a place to feel good about himself.
Salas 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.
Before finding the Warner A. Gabel Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs, Salas didn’t do much after school.
He quickly became involved with other activities, like the Keystone Club.
Salas also found strong male role models who have helped him set a positive example, something he needed growing up in a single-parent home.
“I didn’t really realize that the club was more than basketball and hanging out before. But once the staff helped me get involved in all the programs, I was hooked, and everyone became like family,” Salas says.
The North High School junior goes to the club nearly every day.
“The club has definitely taught me about how to be outgoing…about leadership and responsibility and given me so many opportunities to become the person I am today,” Salas says.
Opportunities like attending the regional Keystone conference with 500
other youth from Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Salas also mentors younger members during the club’s Power Hour homework program, which have helped him hone his sense of responsibility to his community and the club.
“Because of the club and being involved in Keystone, I have matured and realized how important being a leader and positive role model is. I like doing things in the community and being someone the younger kids can look up to and be proud of,” he says.
After Salas finishes high school, he plans to go to a four-year university to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, in hopes of one day owning his own engineering firm.
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 Destini Ward.