The Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada honored some of its top members Thursday night during its Youth of the Year awards banquet.
Katie Leao, director of the Boys and Girls Clubs, said the night was about words; using them to describe the great qualities and accomplishments of all the winners.
“Our words matter and it is our responsibility to make them count and embrace every child,” Leao said.
The Boys and Girls Clubs staff decided upon four candidates for the Youth of the Year award. The application process started in September, with the teenagers having to fill out an application, three essays, submit community references and their grades before going in front of a panel of judges to interview.
“The hardest part was digging deep inside for what makes them great,” said Daniel Dilegame, director of the teen center. “…The pride the club and the community feels for you four is insurmountable.”
The four candidates each gave a speech talking about the struggles they have overcome and how being a part of the Boys and Girls Clubs had changed their lives.
“Being a member wasn’t my first choice, but it was my best choice,” said candidate Mia Liao.
Leao announced the winner of the Youth of the Year was 15-year-old Natalie Ontiveros.
Ontiveros described her journey like a softball game, full of curveballs and strikeouts, but ultimately leading her to become a leader within the Boys and Girls Clubs.
“It feels exciting (to have won) and it is a great accomplishment,” Ontiveros said.
As the winner of the regional Youth of the Year, Ontiveros will go onto compete in the state competition in Reno in February.
The clubs also presented their Carson Valley Community Recognition Award to Raiders offensive line coach Michael Tice for all of his donations and contributions to the Carson Valley Boys and Girls Clubs. Trice has been raising money for the clubs for the last seven years to help the Carson Valley members get a facility for their clubs.
Just last year, he raised $150,000 for the clubs and he also buys and brings more than 125 pairs of sneakers to the kids each year.
“I can honestly say he is the biggest man I have ever met, both in heart and size,” Leao said. “He has gone above and beyond.”
Tice said that right now, the goal is to raise enough money to get the Carson Valley members their own facility to operate in. Currently, they’re utilizing the Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School gym and hallways for their facilities.
“I have been blessed my whole life to play and work in great facilities… and when I went down to see the kids in the Carson Valley club — they are even at a school that our equipment manager used to coach and teach at — and I thought we could do better than this for these kids.
“It is a lot of people behind this, not just me… there are just so many people who have helped grow this program and it feels good.”
The club also honored a number of members from all of their sites, describing their members as involved, dedicated, kind, creative and more.
“Loving, hard-working, awesome, inspiring and strong, these kids bring these traits to the club everyday,” Leao said. “Parents you should be proud.”