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By Nozipo Wobogo                              Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                               Facebook    Twitter         Blog    
Tuesday, February 5, 2013               
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Photo of Boys and Girls Club finalists and judges_Feb_2013
              Photo courtesy of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula
Bernardo Quevedo, is shown in the center of this photo, standing
with the four other finalists and the judges of the 2013 Youth of
the Year event at the Moldaw-Zaffaroni Clubhouse in East Palo Alto.

It was a packed house at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto where the finalists for  the “Youth of the Year 2013” award were joyously celebrated for their accomplishments.

The highlight of the evening occurred when Bernardo Quevedo was chosen as the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula's “Youth of the Year” to represent the three peninsula clubhouses. Quevedo was one of five finalists and he will now move on to represent the BGCP in the Northern California level of the competition.

This local competition was held Friday, February 1 in East Palo Alto’s Moldaw-Zaffaroni Boys and Girls Club. The event started with the presentation of five finalists who had successfully competed against other youth to represent their individual clubhouse.

Bernardo Quevedo and Salvador Rodriguez represented the Moldaw-Zaffaroni Clubhouse in East Palo Alto, Rossmeri Ramirez and Jocelyn Cervantes, both represented the Mervin G. Morris Clubhouse in Redwood City and Ashon Hunter represented the McNeil Family Clubhouse in Menlo Park.

Each one stood before proud families, cheering friends, members of their respective clubs, their communities and five judges: Brenda Villa, water polo champion and Stanford athlete; Bernard Muir, Stanford University’s athletic director; Greg Sands, founder and managing partner of Costanoa Venture Capital; Jim Lianides, Superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District  and Shervin Pishever, the managing director of Menlo Ventures.

Salvador Rodriquez’ family was among the many who attended the festivities. Carlota Rodriquez expressed excitement about her son being a finalist. “I enrolled Salvador in BGCP because they had good rules and the staff kept in touch with me about his progress,”  she said. Salvador’s sister, Carmen, is on the staff at the McNeil Family Clubhouse in Menlo Park.

The finalists gave their presentations in a bid to become the winner, who would continue the journey to represent BGCP in the state, regional, and national competitions.

When Quevedo was selected, the sound of applause reverberated around the room. Earlier, Quevedo, who plans on studying engineering in college, expressed his belief that growing up in a community like East Palo Alto “should not be an excuse for poor academic performance.”

The “Youth of the Year” award has been an important part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for over 65 years. It is one of the many incentives that the club uses to encourage its young members to strive to do their best in every task they undertake.

In talking about the competiton, Peter Fortenbaugh, the executive director of BGCP, said, “It’s about the process of having kids learn to articulate life goals, speak in public, and have one-on-one interviews with a senior executive.”

The competition focuses on young people between the ages of 14 and 18, who have faced unusual adversity, but still have managed to persevere. The youth, who are chosen to compete for the award, must have high moral standards and a good academic record. They must also demonstrate the ability to reach out unselfishly to others who might need their help.

Ashon Hunter said, “It was such a blessing to be a part of this. It was an amazing experience and everyone delivered. I have been a part of BGCP since I was six years old and it is really a cool environment. Gaining the skills to better serve our community is important.” Ashon plans to study psychology when he attends college.

Diquan Richard, who was one of the finalists in the competition held on Wednesday, January 30 to select the Moldaw-Zaffaroni Clubhouse representative, has his heart set on becoming an animator.He said that he has been a member of bgcp for 13 years. When asked what inspired him to want to become an animator, he replied, “One of my most memorable experiences with BGCP was a visit to Pixar studios. I found the story board particularly fascinating.”

Diquan’s good friend, Destinee Johnson, has been a member of BGCP for 12 years. She said, “My cousin got me involved. I like being a member because here, anything is possible. You can get help with things like sports or academics from a great staff.”

At stake for the Youth of the Year contestants are scholarships, recognition, greater opportunities for success in their chosen endeavors and a wealth of new experiences.

The winning Youth of the Year candidates can receive college scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $50,000, depending on how far they reach in the competition.

Nozipo Wobogo, the author of this article, can be contacted at nnwobogo@epatoday.org.