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Motivated Union High School junior prepares for Michigan Youth of the Year Competition

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Winner Cesar Vargas and Runner-Up Jasmine Stark with Police Chief Kevin Belk.

Winner Cesar Vargas and Runner-Up Jasmine Stark with Police Chief Kevin Belk.

Youth of the Year winner and runner-up with Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids' Board of Directors.

Youth of the Year winner and runner-up with Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids' Board of Directors.

Cesar Vargas (Steil Club) and Jasmine Stark (Seidman Club)

Cesar Vargas (Steil Club) and Jasmine Stark (Seidman Club)

Club members from the Steil and Seidman Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids recently submitted applications for this year’s Youth of the Year scholarship competition. After reviewing applications and holding interviews, This January, Cesar Vargas was named Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids’ 2010 Youth of the Year. Jasmine Stark was the runner up.

Boys & Girls Club of America’s National Youth of the Year program recognizes the outstanding strength and service demonstrated by Club members across the country. Each Club chooses a Youth of the Year to compete on the state level hoping to continue through to the regional and national level. The five regional winners appear before members of Congress and other dignitaries to celebrate their success. Since the very first National Youth of the Year in 1947, the national winner receives his or her award from the President of the United States before beginning a one-year term as the teen spokesperson for all Boys & Girls Club members.

Grand Rapids winner Cesar Vargas will receive a $2,000 scholarship from the Darden Group of Restaurants. He is a Junior at Union High School and a member of the Steil Boys & Club. After graduation in 2011, Vargas hopes to attend Grand Valley State University and pursue a concentration in Mathematics. He is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement courses and is part of the Upward Bound program, which gives extra preparation for higher education.

Whether it be helping at home, school, or elsewhere, Vargas is continually setting a good example for those around him through his dedication to volunteering, mentoring, and athletic programs. Vargas has volunteered at Indian Trails, a camp for people with disabilities. He understands the importance of giving back to his community in the same way they give to him.

“Helping at Indian Trails made me realize how much we need to appreciate life,” said Vargas, “because there are people that have it worse."

Applicants for Youth of the Year are screened and judged on leadership qualities and service exhibited in the following areas: Home and Family, Moral Character, Community, School, Service to Club, Life Goals, Obstacles Overcome, Essays, Poise, and Public Speaking.

Vargas was selected from a panel of judges that included board members Lisa Hunter and Eduardo Cedillo. The other two judges were former board member Lynn Afendoulis and Bob Haight of the Heart of Michigan United Way.

Vargas has been a Steil Club Member for two years, and he values his membership greatly. He wrote his application essay on what the Club means to him. In his essay, he expresses his gratitude to Boys & Girls Clubs for their continued support and for providing him with a second home.

“There are some teens that try to make a difference, but living without support is what drags them towards going down the wrong path,” wrote Vargas. “I like being part of the Club because the staff actually care and want to see me graduate as well as be successful in life.”

Both Vargas and runner-up Jasmine Stark, a Senior at East Kentwood High School and Seidman Club member, will attend the State Youth of the Year competition in April held in Ypsilanti where Vargas will have to chance to win another $1,000 scholarship. Until then, Vargas will be working hard on his interview and public speaking skills to prepare himself for the Michigan Youth of the Year.

Article written by Sara Schneider.


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