Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year

February 19, 2022

Students’ shared their amazing stories during the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year ceremony at the Capitol during the 2022 General Session.

Lily Stutz’s StoryYouth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Utah County

“Love is action!”

“I see love in action right here in this room with my fellow Boys and Girls Club members and supporters.”

“I’m reminded that love is action every time I look at the acrylic picture cube on my desk. It holds a photo of my Grandma Vana working at Kids on the Move, an organization that provides services for kids with special needs throughout the state of Utah. The cube holds primary-colored slogans Grandma Vana loved. My favorites are ‘be there!’ and ‘make their day!’. They remind me of how my Grandma’s life focused on selfless actions towards others. For the first three years of my life, I lived with her, and we became extremely close. When I was hurt or sad, I cried for my grandma instead of for my mom. We laughed together, sang together, danced together, really, we did everything together. She was my first and best example of love in action. I looked up to my grandma and tried to be just like her.”

“I share my grandma’s passion for dance. I love serving my team as president of the dance company at my high school. I lead warm-ups, create costume lists, organize the schedule, choreograph and teach dances and support team members in and out of the studio. I’m basically the team ring-leader. I do all the stuff that my coach doesn’t want to do, which is a lot of stuff!”

“I’m willing to do extra work because I want my teammates to love dance as much as I do, so I create an environment where everyone can have a positive dance company experience. As a Boys and Girls Club member, I gained a powerful opportunity to show love in action. I started serving in our food program in July 2020. Over the next three months, we went from serving 4900 meals a week to 16,500 meals per week! Some days we stood in an assembly line in a garage for 12 hours a day, packaging meals. I used to serve the same sister and brother, ages 5 and 7, every day. They arrived on scooters with empty backpacks to get food for their entire family. These tiny kids inspired me, showing love in action by helping their family. This club experience has helped me develop a great deal of mental, physical, and emotional stamina. I can lift heavy crates of food, work long shifts, and stick with hard things because I learned the power of love through action. We now serve 22K meals a week, which shows how small consistent efforts make a big difference in the lives of others.”

“Grandma died of cancer when I was five years old, but she lived to serve others. As I wrote this speech, I suddenly realized I have become just like her. I inherited her passion, energy, and commitment. My club experiences allow me to carry on her legacy of showing love and empathy through service. Love in action is what brings all of us here today. As I prepare for college, I plan to take my powerful new slogan with me: Action is love and love is action!”

Lance Guerrero’s StoryYouth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Weber-Davis

“My name is Lance, but my friends call me Rhyno because when I was in my mom’s stomach, I kicked in the shape of a rhino horn. I want to represent this nickname through strength and by not letting anything get to me.”

“School was always hard for me, not because I was dumb, but because I never tried. In 7th grade I started hanging out with the wrong group of friends and was always late to my classes because I didn’t want to look like a nerd. I wanted to become a class clown, which I did. I was disrespectful to my teachers and would get sent to the hall. By the end of the year I had made a reputation for myself, but not a good one.”

“By the start of my 8th grade year I was still hanging out with the wrong people. This is when I started taking blame for people, which led to suspension. I got suspended for something I didn’t do, which led to a contract. If I got in trouble again I would get kicked out of school. This is when I realized I needed to change. This is when I went to the Boys and Girls Club. I sat and talked with members for hours. They always told me they believed in me and wanted the best for me. Luckily, my 8th grade English teacher works for the Boys and Girls Club. She told me I could do better than what I was doing and that I could do big things one day. Without the support of my family and the Boys and Girls Club, I didn’t know where I would be today. Because of them, I am ahead in my English class and passing all my classes.”

“Because of the decisions I made, I can see many career paths I want to go down.”

Carissa Vera’s StoryYouth of the Year for the Utah Boys and Girls Club

“My story is really about mental health. I was always a performative student and have always been in leadership. I also always had a full-time job. However, I also felt like I had to be perfect. One day, everything fell apart and broke.”

“I had a super big journey on discovering my mental health and where I wanted to be in my life. One day, I came back to the Boys and Girls Club and I talked to my directors and mentours, and we were able to come up with a plan for my mental health. I was able to use the Boys and Girls Club as a resource to better myself. Now, I’m back at school, back in leadership and working at my job more. That is how the Boys and Girls Club influenced me.”

Brock’s StoryHill Air Force Youth Program

“I came to the Hill Air Force Base Affiliated Boys and Girls Club when I was eight years old. Like most kids, I was apprehensive about being in a new environment. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the games, activities, and kids around me. I live in a single-parent household with a veteran mom that works full time. When we discovered the care provided by the youth program, it was a no-brainer to become involved. I didn’t know at the time, but the youth center would influence the trajectory of my future.”

“Being around kids from so many walks of life developed and strengthened my ability to work with others from diverse backgrounds. I have always been competitive. However, I was overly competitive when I first joined the youth center. At the club, I loved spending my time in the gym. I was able to compete in many games and activities, but when I was younger, losing was hard for me. My competitive nature was refined at the youth center as I understood the importance of accepting failure and celebrating success. My mentors taught me that it’s easy to win, but it’s more challenging to “bounce back” from a loss.”

“Bouncing back from a loss can take many forms. When I was 13 years old, I experienced 3rd degree burns behind my leg during a dirt biking accident. I experienced months of pain, a skin graft surgery, and a long recovery. Being a burn survivor does not define me, although it has provided me the opportunity to “bounce back”. For the past 2 years, I have been a camp counselor at Burn Camp, a program hosted by the University of Utah. This camp gave me the opportunity to mentor kids with similar injuries and struggles. It is genuinely inspiring to learn about the horrific injuries that others have been through and overcome. While my injury was terrible, it could have been much worse. It is humbling to see others’ resilience after such injuries, including children who have lost their limbs, been burned internally, or lost fellow family members in a fire. As a volunteer, I’ve learned you always have the ability to help improve someone else’s life.

“The staff and volunteers at the youth center have greatly improved my life. Through exposure to many different topics and careers, the youth center has solidified my desire to pursue math and engineering career fields. My dream is to study mechanical engineering and become a fighter Pilot in the Air Force. I can’t wait to continue my family’s service to this country if given the opportunity. It turns out, becoming a pilot isn’t easy. Who would’ve guessed right? This goal is why I have continued to push myself from an early age to excel in all aspects of my life, including school. I will graduate high school number 1 in my class, with a 4.0 GPA, and Associates’ Degree from Weber State University. I can’t express enough the major role the Boys and Girls Club has played in my success thus far. Regardless of what I do in my future, I want to have a positive impact on the lives of others just as my Boys and Girls Club has had on me. Thank you.”

Kaleb Newby’s StoryYouth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Utah

“​​My dad is on Tatooine. That’s what I tell myself when I can’t know where he is. I’m Kaleb Newby. I am the Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Utah. My father is a former airman in the United States Air Force and now works as a contractor. My parents divorced when I was 8. My mom moved us from New Mexico to Utah where she raised me and my twin siblings.”

“I was raised in poverty, but I always had what I needed. I had been the “man of the house” off and on since I was very young with an active military dad, but after the move it was full time. My time off was at the club, it was the place I could be a kid. I made friends from other schools, staff members became like extended family and at the Club I got to play a lot of baseball.”

“One thing you should know about me is that I love baseball.  I love the Cincinnati Reds and I love the history of baseball. Baseball is a sport where you are not going to be successful 100 percent of the time. A hero like Rickey Henderson can lead the league in stolen bases and in strikeouts. Where Pete Rose the absolute hit king said ‘you know what it means when you go to bat 10,000 times and get 3,000 hits, it means you went 0 for 7,000.’  That’s why I love baseball, it can teach you to move on and keep playing even if you fail. I played as much ball as possible growing up, working towards my dream of playing MLB. I was preparing to try out for the high school team.”

“The start of 2021, I started getting sick. I assumed it was because I was working out too much.  On March 1, I was taken to the hospital, thinking it was appendicitis.  It wasn’t, I was treated for possible Crohns and ended up back in the hospital 7 days later. After a transfer to a Regional Medical Center I went through a full week of tests and medications. Basically my entire GI tract was inflamed and I was diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Colitis, a condition I will suffer with for the rest of my life.  I was put on medication and finally discharged 14 days past the try out date for high school baseball.”

“I was home for a total of 6 days. Then insurance fought covering my medications. I lost 17 pounds and I was going back to the hospital. I am 6’2”, and three months earlier I weighed 185lbs. That day I weighed 127. The day I went back to the hospital was the worst day of my life. A PICC line was inserted into my arm. I got stronger medicines and it seemed these treatments might work. Then there was the best day, the day I ate saltine crackers. You don’t know what you have been through until you are grateful to keep down saltines. On the day of my second discharge, it was the opening day of MLB 2021 season and I watched the Cincinnati Reds when I got home. It’s been a long road, getting back to the huge man you see today. I’ve had to change my diet. I can’t eat pork, and don’t believe anyone, turkey bacon is NOT the same. It’s been long and slow.”

“Tryouts are next month. My dream is still to make the big leagues by playing high school and college ball. No matter where my life takes me I plan to be involved in baseball.  I’ll study journalism and communication. If I’m not playing, I will report on the game that I love.”

“The club wants me to have a life plan that works regardless of playing ball. Club staff every day remind kids of their potential and work with them to plan their future. The club is as relentless at giving every kid a future as I am at playing baseball. That is why I am here representing my club.”

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