SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Boys and Girls Club of America named its choice for Utah Youth of the Year, a title that recognizes a teen who is on a path to a bright future and encourages other kids.
The club chose West High School senior Sheila Hernandez Salazar as Utah’s Youth of the Year. The title exemplifies someone who the organization believes is an exemplary young person in recognition of leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to live a healthy lifestyle.
“We are incredibly proud of Sheila and all the Youth of the Year nominees,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in a statement. “Being named Youth of the Year is a lifelong honor. As the Utah Youth of the Year, Sheila will serve as a spokesperson for Boys & Girls Club kids across the state who need more role models that they can admire and emulate.”
It is the 73rd year the club has awarded this honor, and gives Salazar the opportunity to serve as an ambassador to other teens in the state. Salazar will also receive a $2,500 college scholarship from the Boys and Girls Club of America and compete in the regional Youth of the Year. Beyond that, she could compete for the national title as well.
Salazar is deeply involved in school activities, taking classes in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Honors and concurrent enrollment. She has also played volleyball for her high school team for two years, while also being a part of the Environmental Club and a member of student government.
She joined the Boys and Girls Club six years ago. She said she wanted to build healthier social relationships.
“When I was in seventh grade, I felt like I did not belong. I felt as though I did not have a connection with any of my friends or any of my family,” Salazar said in a statement. “Going to the Club has allowed me to express myself in ways that I could not have done at home or at school. I could be crazy happy or incredibly sad but I always knew that there would be someone, staff or another member, who would be willing to help.”
At the club, Salazar joined as many programs as she could: homework help and tutoring, STEM activities, the annual Club Haunted House, hiking, river rafting, swimming etc.
Salazar also spent her time volunteering as a leader for the club’s “girl-specific” activities.
She also spent time mentoring the younger members of the club, which resulted her being offered a paid summer staff position when she was 17 years old.
Salazar will go on to compete against other state winners for the Pacific regional title, where she could be awarded an additional college scholarship if she wins. If successful, she will move on to Washington, D.C. in September to compete for the America’s National Youth of the Year award.
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