Four outstanding students honored at the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu Youth of the Year event

Four outstanding youth representatives shared their personal story of adversity, goals for the future, and the impact of the BGCM on their lives. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT

The candidates shared their personal stories, future goals, and the impact BGCM has made in their lives

Four outstanding youth representatives shared their personal stories of adversity, goals for the future, and the impact the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) has made on their lives at the latest Youth of the Year event on Saturday, Feb. 24. 

The candidates — Azalea, grade 12; Diego, grade 10; Irina, grade 11; and Emily, grade 12 — were celebrated for their years of dedication, inspiration, and advocacy in the school and Malibu community.

Before the candidates shared their personal stories, Malibu BGCM Chief Executive Director Kasey Earnest introduced the judges and welcomed the guests to the Third Space location.

“In considering this year’s event, we thought what better use of space than to host our event here at Third Space,” Earnest said. “Some of them [candidates] work in this store, so this is a very special place to them, and it’s truly what we aim to provide: out-of-school education, real-life work experience, and opportunities to gain skills.”

The judges included: Associate Dean of the Santa Monica College Malibu Campus Alice Meyering; Malibu Life Team co-founder, Compass Real Estate and BGCM Supporter Madison Hildebrand; City of Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart; SMMUSD School Board Member Stacy Rouse; Founder of Broad Street Oyster Co. and BGCM Supporter Christopher Tompkins; and Chief Investment Officer at Primestor and BGCM Board Member Lonnie Vidaurri.

The judges were able to ask the candidates questions about their passion, goals, and challenges they had to overcome.

Azalea is a 10-year BGCM member and hopes to be an advocate for affordable healthcare and accessible resources for her community.

“The issue of accessible healthcare is of utmost importance to me, and I firmly believe that health is important to every individual’s life,” Azalea said. 

“And that everyone should have equitable access to healthcare resources.”

Diego is a 10-year BGCM member and enjoys volunteering at various events throughout his community, such as the Malibu Chili Cook-Off.

Diego said because of BGCM, he has already surpassed the recommended hours to graduate. 

“Because I learned the positive impact of service, I intend to complete even more hours beyond the required time,” Diego said. “The Boys & Girls Club has shown me how I can put my goals for creating an equitable role into action; by developing my leadership skills, finding my love for service, and honoring my passion, I am passionate about becoming a registered nurse.”

Irina is a six-year member and shared her personal story about health and wellness, and is an advocate for body positivity. 

“I wish to become a surgeon and open a nonprofit eating disorder clinic on the side, in which women but also anyone else who has experienced body image issues, to learn how to love, treasure, and appreciate every inch of their body,” Irina said. 

The last speaker was seven-year member Emily. 

As Emily bids farewell to her membership at BGCM, her next chapter is to attend a four-year university.

“Transitioning into college, I am focused on what truly matters to me — fighting against injustice, fostering curiosity, and investing in a brighter future,” Emily said. “My personal experiences of discrimination has taught me the importance of keeping an open mind and always standing up for what’s right.” 

Some of Emily’s passions are reading, writing, education, and social justice. Emily will be the first of her family to attend college right after graduation. 

After the speeches, the judges went to a separate room to rank the candidates and announce the winner.

The winner, Emily, will move on to the LA County-wide Youth of the Year event.

“We’re just incredibly grateful to be here,” Emily said. “I think Youth of the Year is an incredible accomplishment, and I’m incredibly honored to be this year’s Youth of the Year. This process has taught me a lot about myself and has empowered me to be fearless, and with public speaking, it has taught me a lot about myself, and I think if you can do this, it’s endless.”

Earnest said the Youth of the Year program is the most prized, exciting, and pinnacle event at BGCM. 

“The youth who chose to be a part of this event and competition is really giving all of themselves, they believe they are the best ambassador for their boys and girls club and their community, and they are willing to share their struggles and their triumphs in a way that’s future-forward,” Earnest said. 

Earnest also thanked the judges who attended this year’s event.

“With this particular event, we never have a hard time getting anyone to come and participate or speak because everyone believes so much in the mission of supporting these amazing youth on their journey, so we’re very privileged to get support from the city, from Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath’s office, as well as our local businesses that are represented here,” she said. “These are ongoing contributors who believe in supporting local community as well as Santa Monica College (SMC) has been a wonderful recent partner to BGCM, so we really appreciate Alice’s [Meyering] participation.”

Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is BGCA’s premier recognition program for club members, promoting service to club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability. The program is most effective when used as a year-round tool for fostering young people’s character, personal growth and leadership qualities. Local Clubs recognize members ages 14 to 18 as Youth of the Month winners and select a Youth of the Year, who then participates in state competitions. State winners each receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.