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Sonoma Valley Boys and Girls Clubs names Youths of the Year

YOY finalists Ilse Arias, Miranda Zuniga, Dulce Mexicano and Pravee Watthanewes. Photo by Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune.

LORNA SHERIDAN,

Four members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley have been named as finalists in the nonprofit’s eighth annual Youth of the Year award program.

Youth of the Year is the club’s premier youth recognition program for members. The program promotes and celebrates service to the club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability.

Youth of the Year candidates are high school juniors or seniors who demonstrate a significant arc of change. Many candidates face incredible personal challenges at home and in school.

The 2018 honorees are Sonoma Valley High School seniors Ilse Arias, Miranda Zuniga and Pravee Wattanhewes and junior Dulce Mexicano.

Pravee Wattanhewes is described by club staff as “one of the most consistent and dedicated volunteers we have. Praveee can be found working with our school-age members several days a week, helping with programs, homework time, or assisting with the youth athletic leagues. He has become a favorite among the staff and members for his engaging activities and games, but also for the genuine love he has for helping our clubs become a better place. He quietly excels academically, currently holding a 3.6 GPA, despite balancing a heavy workload.”

Miranda Zuniga designed a program to assist female middle school members with some of their everyday issues, including advice on academic pressures, relationships and bullying. Miranda is also one of the club’s most active volunteers out in the community, and staff say that she uses her skills as a leader to motivate her peers to give back as well.

Ilse Arias has only been attending the club since her freshman year, but the staff says that, in that short time, she has had a tremendous impact. It became clear early on that she was a leader who could inspire those around her and earlier this year she was named president of the teen leadership organization, the Keystone Club. Whether it is community service projects, facilitating programs for younger members, or partnerships with other organizations, Ilse’s work ethic and leadership was readily apparent. Ilse also led the charge in planning the club’s activities centered around mental health awareness

Dulce Mexicano is the youngest YOY finalist and staff say that she was chosen because her age is not indicative of her ability to make a difference. She helped organize the club’s Girls United program, creating a video documenting the effects of bullying, as well as creating a wall where club members posted their pledge to stand against bullying. She also serves as a mentor to a middle school member, giving advice on being academically successful and important aspects of life as a high school student.

The community is invited to hear the teen finalists share their personal stories of adversity and success at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Maxwell Park Clubhouse. Also honored will be the Members of the Year from all six BGC sites, along with the Carole Downing Volunteer award and the Athlete of the Year Award.

The Youth of the Year recipient receives a $2,000 scholarship and a new laptop computer from the August Sebastiani Foundation. Each teen candidate receives a $500 scholarship from the Foundation.

Ramekins, in partnership with the August Sebastiani Foundation, hosts BGCSV teens in an annual cooking class to prepare the appetizers and refreshments that are served at the annual Youth of the Year event. The teens then assist in presenting and serving the food they prepared.

For more information on the Youth of the Year program, email Nick Haley at nhaley@bgcsonoma.org.

To RSVP to attend the event contact Cary Leigh Dacy at cdacy@bgcsonoma.org or 938-8544, ext. 125.