By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
The Bristol Boys and Girls Club hosted their 2018 Youth of the Year award presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 28, which was awarded to 10-year Club member, Daneirys Rivera.
Rivera is a junior at E.C. Goodwin Technical High School in New Britain, where she studies HVAC. She plans to go to college for international business, and hopes to own her own HVAC business in the future.
“Being Youth of the Year, for me, it’s being able to give back to the community and to help provide opportunities for the youth near me,” said Rivera.
Teen director at the club, Nicole Stere, said the Youth of the Year process is a long one, which begins almost a year in advance, but the actual participants are not selected until a few months into the school year.
“I work with them on a weekly to two week basis,” explained Stere. “We do public speaking workshops, we do interview workshops, what to wear to an interview, and then I help them with their essays and the whole application process.”
Stere said being Youth of the Year means you are the face of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, and the goal is to win the nationwide competition, being recognized as the National Youth of the Year.
“Daneirys will go on to states, and then whoever wins that will go on to regionals, and that winner will go on to nationals,” said Stere. “The goal is to be a National Youth of the Year, which is, you’re the face of Boys and Girls Clubs around America, but even for all of the nominees here today, they have to do marketing for us, they have to be the spokesperson for us, they have to speak at different events, so all of the nominees are used equally, too.”
The state competition will be April 3 and 4, and will be held in Hartford.
Nellyris Santos, Daneirys’ mother, said that she was incredibly proud of her daughter.
“That’s my princess, she’s gone so far and I know she’s going to keep going, she’s my everything,” said Santos. “I’m so proud of her, very proud.”
After winning, Rivera said she was full of emotions. “I’m proud of myself, and I’m happy because now I can bring this back to my community and show them that I did it for them.”
Crystal Quinones, a sophomore at Bristol Central High School and five-year club member, was also nominated.
Jillian Maghini, Youth of the Year 2017, was also present and said being Youth of the Year challenged her to make sure she was always on her “A-game” because she knew the younger Club members were looking up to her.
“This year flew by, and Daneirys is so deserving of it,” said Maghini.
One of the judges of the competition was Don Coombs, president of the Club’s Older Members Association.
“We’re just looking for an overall, all around good person, who has not only helped themselves but others,” said Coombs. “Through reading their essays, which were very touching and personal, to their academic success, to their community success, to what they’ve done for the Boys and Girls Club, through their own interactions and through helping the kids that are here at the club as well.”
The judging panel also included Carolyn Bligh, the director of facilities design at ESPN, and Chris Traczyk, the community development director at Farmington Bank.
During the judging process, Bligh said she was looking for somebody who stood out, who had very strong leadership skills, was very passionate with their mission, had strong values and character, and who had a strong bond with the Bristol Boys and Girls Club.
“Both of them really did show those qualities,” said Bligh. “Hopefully, we’ll see the other candidate next year.”
Going forward from the competition, Bligh believes it’s important for the Youth of the Year to continue to help other people, further their education, instill the same sense of purpose and values in others, and to be a role model.
“Clearly these candidates had that,” said Bligh. “They’re really a role model for me, I mean, I wish I was friends with these girls when I was growing up, just, their purpose of where they are and how they live their life is refreshing; they are strong women, and they’re going to go far.”