On Wednesday February 8th, Teen finalists from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley came together to speak to an audience of 300 people at the Uptown Theater in downtown Napa. Every year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley recognizes outstanding youth at an annual event called Youth of the Year. “This is one of the most anticipated night of the year for our organization,” said Jaime Gallegos, Director of Operations for the Club. “It’s a unique opportunity for us to celebrate our incredible youth and a chance for people to see firsthand how the Club impacts our local community.
Each year, thousands of Club teens across the nation participate in local, state, and regional Youth of the Year events. In Napa and American Canyon, each nominee spends weeks preparing to tell their story on stage but there’s a whole lot more than storytelling behind the program. Finalists draft a series of essays on the topics of their Club experience, what matters to them most, and overcoming obstacles. They interview with staff, mentors, and judges. They contribute hours of community services and collect letters of recommendation from people they respect. At the February 8th event, eight teen finalists had the opportunity to share their Club journey.
“I look forward to this event every year,” said Greg Bouillerce, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley Executive Director, “its an incredible opportunity to give these youth agency and the ability to talk about issues and stories that are important to them and to do it at one of the most beautiful theaters in Napa, the uptown, really gives energy to this moment of celebration.” This year’s event was sponsored by John and Michele Truchard and JAM Cellars who continue to support the Club creatively.
“I never saw myself as the kind of person who would be standing on this stage,” said Eduardo Coronado, “but the people at the Club did.”
“They helped me explore who I am,” said Mikayla Grogan, “without telling me who I should be.”
“At school I was constantly being compared to others and at home I was desperately trying to get others to understand me, I was different, ” said Miguel Rivera Medina, “and at the Club, they taught me that being different was ok”
“The Club was always safe and accepting,” continued Karlos Garduce, “and I knew that when I came out they would accept me too.”
“It (the Club) completely changed the path I would take,” said Jaime Sanchez, “they challenged me to reset my expectations and helped me seize new opportunities.”
“I proved to myself, and everyone around me that I’ve grown,” said Rachel Wu, “there’s so much more to me than what you see on the surface.”
I felt out of place, but because of (my time at) the Club I am not just making the most of my life, I’m making the most of each day,” said Melody Kondor.
“Like dancers we’re unique with individual movements but when we come together we can accomplish things we never could have alone,” said Dareydy Rojas.
“This is more than day care, this is family. This is the power of a place that all of the teens you’ve met tonight call a second home,” concluded Greg Bouillerce at the event.
At the end of the evening Dareydy Rojas, a graduating Senior at Vintage High School, was selected to advance to the next stage of the competition as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley’s 2023 Youth of the Year. “At the Club You don’t walk alone. At the Club I am surrounded by people who show me who I am. I’m a leader, a problem solver, I may be small but I’m making a big impact,” said Dareydy Rojas 2023 Youth of the Year, who plans to attend college in the fall to study child
About Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley
For 60 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley has enabled young people most in need to achieve great futures as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Today, more than 12 locations serve over 4000 young people through Club membership and community outreach. Clubs are located in schools and off site locations throughout Napa and American Canyon. They provide a safe place, caring adult mentors, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Club programs promote academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. In a Harris Survey of alumni, 54 percent said the Club saved their lives.