Boys & Girls Clubs’ State Youth of the Year named
With courage and an ambition to influence generations to come, seven Nevada teens shared their stories in front of a room full of state and legislative figures, about how their personal challenges inspired them to devote time to the community.
The public speaking contest held at Governor’s Mansion on Thursday was part of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ State Youth of the Year title competition, the highest honor a Boys & Girls Clubs member can receive.
Each candidate’s story shared a message about why they got involved with the program and how they plan to contribute to it. Two winners were selected for 2017 Nevada Youth of the Year and Military Youth of the Year.
Gabrielle Unpingco of Las Vegas won the Military Youth of the Year Award, representing Nellis Air Force Base. Her father is a member of the U.S. Air Force.
Unpingco shared her passion to create a safe haven within the Youth Place and inspire to unite teens together internationally.
“There’s such a divide during this day and time,” she said. “It feels so amazing that I won. I thought I wasn’t good enough but people like my mother pushed me. Now I can focus on my plan for the Youth Center.”
America Sarabia, the Nevada Youth of the Year winner, is a longtime member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Truckee Meadows. The Sparks High School senior talked about how she’s the first in her family to attend college and how her relationships within the clubs inspired her to create a path to a bright future.
“I worked really hard to get where I’m at,” she said. “I know the other speakers worked hard, too. I’m looking forward to regionals; this doesn’t feel real.”
Representing Carson City, Natalie Ontiveros, a sophomore at Carson High School, received $500 for her participation in Nevada Youth of the Year.
Although she didn’t win the competition this year, Ontiveros said she’s proud to have made it far as a teen within the region.
“I feel accomplished,” she said. “The next thing to do is keep moving forward. I plan on competing again next year.”
Unpingco and Sarabia both received a $1,000 college scholarship combined from national sponsors such as Disney, University of Phoenix, Toyota, and Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.
The girls will compete in a Pacific regional competition this summer, in which sponsors will then award a $10,000 scholarship to the winner.
From there, four regional winners from around the country will compete in Washington, D.C., for the National Youth of the Year award, which includes a $50,000 scholarship and a visit with the president of the United States.
After meeting each candidate, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced an effort to help push a Boys & Girls Clubs in Ely, in which the goal is to open a location by this summer, according to The Ely Times.
“Our smaller communities deserve the same kind of inspiration,” he said.
“Not just for the kids, but also for parents and leaders.”
Finalists of state also included: Chace Cleckley of Fallon; Marco Meraz of Valley High School in Las Vegas; Stephen Nielson of Elko High School; and Shelby Rosebush of Mason Valley.