Boys & Girls Clubs State Youth of the Year

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The Arizona Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs named Johana Lopez the 2013 State Youth of the Year. Award recipient, Johana Lopez and Vice President of Club Operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix, Bridget McDonald talk about the competition and award.

Jose Cardenas: The Arizona alliance of boys and girls clubs named Johana Lopez the 2013 state youth of the year. She was chosen from among candidates from across the state. She just returned from the regional competition in California. Joining me now to talk more about this special award is Johana Lopez, also here is Bridget McDonald, vice-president of club operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of metro Phoenix. First congratulations on your success. I want to talk about your background and what led you to pursue this, but before we do that, give us some background about the award itself, how it came to be and what the process is.

Bridget McDonald: Absolutely. The youth of the year program was designed to recognize the outstanding young people that go through boys and girls club programs, that take advantage of opportunities that use the resources that we have to move themselves along. It could be longevity in a program, it could be their commitment to their community, some of what they do with their home and family, it's their school, their community service. It's their moral values, really. And all those things put together really create this award that recognizes a child that just has the highest of standards in those areas.

Jose Cardenas: How many years has it been in effect?

Bridget McDonald: Boys and Girls clubs has been in existence over 100 years, and I believe the first boy of the year was probably in the mid 30's, maybe 40's. And it's been ongoing ever since. But with our organization, 1946. So we've always had someone represent.

Jose Cardenas: And you're too young to have been involved all those years, but you've been as it for 20 plus years.

Bridget McDonald: I have.

Jose Cardenas: This particular nomination comes from the individual club. They decide who they want to support.

Bridget McDonald: Exactly. There are 12 branches, and each one of those 12 sites recognizes one outstanding teenager, puts them into the group and they all vie for the title of youth of the year for metro Phoenix. They're already all winners, so it's just a representative, we don't want winners, and they're all winners. But they do, they spend four months getting ready, so that means they have training in toastmasters, so they get speaker training, they participate in team building, they do storytelling, they're virtually telling their stories, they're out there explaining what it means to be a Boys and Girls club member, what it has done for their lives, how they've overcome obstacles. So they get this -- All this training to be able to stand up there and present their stories and represent their clubs as they're vying for this title of youth of the year.

Jose Cardenas: Johana, in your nomination, which I understand -- It does talk about one of those obstacles that Bridget was referring to, being the traditional Mexican culture and dealing with the fact that your parents have -- Had a certain view, anyway of what a young woman should be, what her as inspirations should be. And you didn't even tell them you had been admitted to six colleges.

Johana Lopez: Yes. My culture as well as my family expectations wanted me to have a family when I was 16, hi that support going on of being married and the man going out and financially supporting us. And I didn't want that. I didn't feel like that was specifically for me. While I do respect my family and what they believe in, I prefer in showing them instead of just running away and doing what I wanted, I prefer to demonstrate to them that that piece of my life will come later on, but I first want to develop myself intellectually and in a career base.

Jose Cardneas: Part of the inspiration was your involvement in boys and girls clubs.

Johana Lopez: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: How so?

Johana Lopez: The boys and girls club really allowed me to find role models. The females really demonstrated hard working women are respected, and the males show me my gender does not limit my capabilities. It was the first place I found -- It wasn't just expected for me to become a housewife, but it was expected of me to become what I wanted, and I had all the keys available for me to do that.

Jose Cardenas: While the nomination indicates you are a very remarkable young woman. Hundreds of hours of volunteer activity. Tell us about that.

Johana Lopez: Yes. I was always very involved in my community. I feel that the kids in my community should really get a better influence in educational purposes. So I started with -- After the program that was allowed in my area in school, and I would go back into it, and I volunteer with the teachers, I volunteer, mentored with reading and English, and as well as math and not only did I get a taste of what a teacher does, but a base of what career purpose I wanted to pursue.

Jose Cardneas: Bridget, how does boys and girls club take advantage of this remarkable talent? Is it like some other contest where the winner becomes almost ambassador for the program, they go on and meet with others and inspire them in a similar way?

Bridget McDonald: Really, that is almost the exact -- They become a spokesperson for Boys and Girls club, and the opportunities that can be found there to take the remarkable children even further down the path to where they want to go. The program overall really does help develop. And the youth of the year piece is important, but Johana was seen as someone with so much potential in the first place, and just providing her some of those tools that she talks about, somebody that said to her she could do this, somebody that said her dreams were value it, and that education was a possibility. Those are the things that really made a difference and what the boys and girls club can provide. But it is an ambassadorship, if you will. As they get further doubt road in the competition, she went from the local competition, to the state competition, where she competed with representatives from the organizations across the state. We have 23 of them. They all are eligible to send a Johana to that competition. So she won at that level and for boys and girls clubs of America they participate in a regional competition, which is where we went last week in California, and there are nine states across the Pacific region, the western parts of the United States, so she competed with the winners of those nine states. That's culled down to five representatives, and one military representative for boys and girls clubs.

Jose Cardenas: And that's all still ongoing.

Bridget McDonald: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Among the people you convinced apparently that this is something that you could do, were your own parents. And I understand you will be going to college. Tell us your future as inspirations in terms of the areas you want to focus on and we'll wrap up the interview with that.

Johana Lopez: This upcoming fall I plan to attend Grand Canyon University as an honors student, I will have a double major with the goal of joining the FBI.

Jose Cardenas: Best of luck to you. I'm sure based on everything we've seen you'll have no trouble getting there. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Johana Lopez:Recipient, 2013 Boys and Girls Clubs State Youth of the Year;Bridget McDonald:President of Club Operations, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix;

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