Olga Fernandez, an 18-year-old from Scottsdale, was named Boys & Girls Club State Youth of the Year this week at the 11th Annual Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs Legislative Breakfast, presented by the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Fernandez, a 10-year member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Rose Lane Branch, was chosen over seven other candidates representing Clubs across the state. After being named the winner at the breakfast at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, Fernandez will take home scholarships of $1,800 from the Fiesta Bowl and $1,000 from Tupperware Brands. She has also received a $5,000 scholarship from General Dynamics C4 Systems, a $750 American Express gift card and a new laptop computer from Network PC Engineering.
During her tenure at the Club, Fernandez has been involved in a variety of educational and community service programs. She credits Club technology programs such as Techathlon and Club Tech for her academic success at Saguaro High School, where she is a senior and maintains a 4.1 GPA. She plans to attend Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College in the fall and pursue a career in medicine.
Fernandez said the people she met at the Club helped teach her leadership skills and responsibility.
“I finally had people who understood and believed in me,” she said. “I am glad that I had role models to help me through my struggles, and I can honestly say without them, I would still be that misinterpreted, vulnerable 7-year-old. Instead, today, I am a young person committed to doing her best.”
Fernandez is now preparing for the regional competition to be held in July at the Fairmont Newport Beach in Newport Beach, Calif. The regional winner will then advance to the National Youth of the Year competition in Washington, D.C. in September and meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
The event’s other three finalists were Katelyn Moore, 17, of Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley; Jonathon Moss, 16, of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River; and Taylor Sturges, 16, of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. The remaining four candidates were Jada Branche, 15, of Luke Air Force Base Youth Center; Christopher Crow, 14, of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central AZ; Alexis Galaviz, 18, of Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Yuma County; and Arreana Robles, 16, of Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson.
Todd Stottlemyre, a two-time World Series champion and former pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, gave the event’s keynote address. Romonia “Mona” Dixon, the 2010 Arizona Youth of the Year, Pacific Region Youth of the Year and National Youth of the Year, served as the mistress of ceremonies.
Participating judges were Ann Damiano, Fiesta Bowl Board Member and Territory Market Manager of Cisco Systems, Inc.; Steven R. Helfgot, President and CEO of the Maricopa Community College District Foundation; John Knapp of Darden Restaurants; Mary Murphy, Senior Program Specialist of the Governor’s Office of Children, Youth & Families; and the Honorable Cecil B. Patterson, retired judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals Division One.
Before the breakfast, candidates were treated to a weekend of fun team-building activities that included dinner at Sam’s Café and a private tour of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sponsored by Tupperware Brands, the National Youth of the Year program is designed to promote and recognize service to the community and Club, academic performance and contributions to family and spiritual life. The five regional winners and one national winner each will receive educational scholarships from Tupperware Brands.
About the Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs
The Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs (http://www.azabgc.org) encompasses 73 clubhouses across the state that offer programs and services to promote positive youth development by instilling a sense of belonging, usefulness, influence and competence. Programs include character and leadership development; educational enhancement initiatives that help young people with schoolwork, teach positive study habits and promote the pursuit of higher education; and health education, including gang prevention and counseling against the dangers of substance abuse. Boys & Girls Clubs in Arizona serve over 140,000 kids each year, and that number continues to grow.