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Boys & Girls Clubs of Great Scottsdale name Youth of the Year

Olga Fernandez and Steve Davidson, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

Scottsdale resident and Saguaro High School senior Olga Fernandez was selected as the 2011 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale.

Olga has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale for the past 10 years and has been involved in a variety of educational and community service programs. She credits Club technology programs like Techathalon and Club Tech for her academic success at school. Olga maintains a 4.1 GPA and plans to attend Arizona State University’s Barrett, The Honors College, in the fall and will eventually pursue a career in medicine.

As the 2011 Youth of the Year from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Fernandez will represent the organization at the state competition held on Tuesday, April 19, at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix. The state winner will advance to the Pacific Region competition. Then, five regional finalists will vie for the national title of Boys & Girls Clubs of America 2011 Youth of the Year.

The 2011 Youth of the Year announcement was made at the organization’s annual Celebrate Youth Gala & Auction held on Saturday, March 26, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. Fernandez will receive a $5,000 scholarship from General Dynamics C4 Systems, $750 American Express gift card, and new laptop computer from Network PC Engineering.

The Youth of the Year program has been an integral part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for more than 60 years and is the highest honor given to members of the organization. Finalists are chosen based on their dedication to the Club, community and family, academic performance, moral character, life goals, leadership, poise and public speaking ability.

Below is the award-winning speech that Fernandez gave at the event:

Me siento triste. No tengo con quien hablar. Nadie me entiende. I am feeling sad. I have no one to talk to and am not being understood. Those were the exact thoughts that went through my mind on my first day at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. I was a lonely, Spanish-speaking 7-year-old who thought nothing good could come out of this move to America. I believed that the club was just going to be a temporary fixture in my life but was I wrong. Little did I know that it would become a place where I felt accepted and at liberty to just be me; a place where I would build lasting relationships and learn to express myself; a place where I would gain the confidence that I so desperately needed and a place where I learned that my differences were not so different.

The fairy tale club life that I live today is a far cry from how it was ten years ago. I was a second grader who wanted nothing to do with this so called “club”. I felt alienated and in result misbehaved, desperately seeking attention. I once remember, sprinting out of the Hartley & Ruth Barker Branch just to cause commotion. When the staff sat down and tried a different approach to handling me, I slowly began to feel secure and change my ways. I began to think positively and appreciate the Boys & Girls Club for what it had to offer. It soon became that place where I could be accepted.

Not long after, I moved to a new school and a new Boys & Girls Club, the Rose Lane Branch. My first day at Rose Lane, I was determined to have a fresh, positive start with a new attitude. I immersed myself into all the programs the club had to offer. One program in particular was Smart Girls. It taught me to have confidence in myself and embrace the woman I am becoming. The more programs that I participated in; the more I discovered my love for the club. I realized how being an individual did not mean being an outsider. I finally had people who understood and believed in me.

I am glad that I had role models to help me through my struggles and I can honestly say that without them, I would still be that misinterpreted, vulnerable 7-year-old. Instead, today I am a young person committed to do her best, an upcoming college student at Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College but most of all a courageous individual who is determined to succeed despite the odds of any given situation. This would not be possible without the help Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale. Gracias…Thank you.

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Since 1954, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale has provided more than 100,000 Northeast Valley youth with a positive, supervised environment to explore the power of their potential. The organization’s nine branches and 12 outreach sites are located in Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Hualapai Indian Community and other Northeast Valley neighborhoods. The Club offers more than 100 youth development programs emphasizing five core areas: the arts; character & leadership development; education & career development; health & life skills; and sports, fitness & recreation. For more information visit bgcs.org.