by Roel Godinez
On January 31st, from 6:30 to 8:00 in the evening, the Vista Boys and Girls Club hosted the annual Youth Of the Year Awards Night, an event that honors club members who are outstanding in their areas of choice. Though not all twenty-four award winners were present, the Boys and Girls Club’s vibrant orange gym quickly became packed with the friends and families of the winners.
Raising Cane’s of Vista generously donated hundreds of chicken fingers and gallons of their sweet ice tea and lemonade for this event. A fruit platter, a cheese and crackers plate, and chilled water bottles were also available. All the food was served by Thrivent Financial volunteers. Thrivent is a nonprofit Christian financial company that was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute.
Once the crowd had settled in, four Boy Scouts from Troop 760 led the Pledge of Allegiance. Following this, the chief executive officer of The Boys and Girls club, Matt Koumaras, opened the ceremony.
“Tonight we’re going to be celebrating some of the clubs most exceptional members and their exceptional achievements,” he said. “Tonight’s award recipients were selected from our 2,700 kids that take part in the Boys and Girls Club of Vista so that makes these kids a pretty big deal. So congratulations to all of them here tonight!”
Koumaras then introduced Vista Magnet Middle School’s principal, Steve Post. Post thanked the Boys and Girls Club for its service to Vista’s youth. Many middle schoolers find opportunities for education, social experiences, and safety within the club’s embrace. Students who are active members of the club have a significantly higher chance of graduating from high school and continuing on to higher education.
For the ensuing hour, the winners were presented their awards. Each was introduced by a proud staff member and given a plaque, a stuffed bear, and a short time frame for an acceptance speech. Many of the winners were incredibly proud of their achievements and thanked their families and teachers.
The first batch of winners were of elementary school age. From one to another, the staff set a milk crate beneath the podium and lowered the microphone, allowing the young award winners to peek their heads over.
“Hi I am six years old,” said one of the winners. “Some of the things I like to do is play Roblox, play with my friends, do art and more. Thank you for the award!”
The next winners came in three groups: middle schoolers from Vita, Vista Magnet, and Madison. Each middle school presented an award to a scholar, athlete, and overall student of the year. After these, awards were given to three more students who attend the Boys and Girls club Raintree division. Raintree is a small park with a club building that is located right off of Townsite.
The final four awards were of the highest achievement for the Vista Boys and Girls Club: the Cali Volleyball MVP, the two athletes of the year, and the 2018 Youth of the Year.
The 2018 Youth of the Year is the most prestigious award that a local club member can achieve. This year’s winner is 16 year old Emely Rosales. Emely was chosen for the positive impact that she created through her academic and leadership skills.
“The Boys and Girls Club has made me more social and has helped me deal with my anxiety and depression,” she said. “Helping others makes me feel so happy. I am thankful for being able to express myself here and being able to come for so long.”
She will be going to San Diego to compete with the Youths of the Year from other cities where the winner will become the ambassador for the Pacific region. She will also be awarded with a scholarship at the Boys and Girls Club Gala event.
After Emely Rosales gave her speech, the award winners all gathered for photos. Though they each varied in age and stature, they all shared a smile of pride for their benevolent community.
“The Youth of the Year event is my favorite Club event,” says Matt Koumaras. “It brings together extraordinary club members, parents, teachers, families and community leaders in celebration of great futures. It is the resounding ‘why’ as to why Boys & Girls Clubs are needed in every community giving kids positive outlets during out of school time.”