W.V. Teens vie for Youth of the Year

Boys & Girls Clubs members in running for honor

Two teenagers who are members of Boys & Girls Clubs in the West Valley are sharing their stories as they seek the Youth of the Year title for the Metro Phoenix clubs.

The winner, chosen from among 13 candidates representing each of the clubs, will be named March 19 at the annual Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars gala.

Those competing include Isabel Castillo of Avondale’s Tri-City Thornwood branch and Brianna Inda of Tolleson’s Woodrow C. Scoutten club.

The youths involved in the after-school program were selected by club staffers and members before undergoing a 16-week training course involving team building and presentation skills.

Each will have three minutes at the gala to impress the judges with their story of success despite adversity.

Isabel, 16, of Avondale said she will talk about how she’s worked to build her confidence and self-worth after overcoming depression and bullying.

She said she became involved in the Boys & Girls Clubs 11 years ago when she was struggling with the divorce of her parents, Selicino Castillo and Elanca Martinez.

“With the help of the club, I know I can get through anything,” Isabel said.

A junior at Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Isabel said she goes to the club every day after school and completes her homework, then helps staffers and interacts with other youths taking advantage of gym, art and computer activities.

Evelyn McNeill, the club’s director, said the club serves 220 youths ages 5 to 18 from Avondale, Goodyear and Tolleson.

Isabel has been involved with recruiting more teenagers to the club as well as fundraising and community service projects.

“She’s done an awesome job just being a leader,” said Paul Cervantes, teen specialist at the club. “She is a person little kids can lean on.”

Isabel plans to attend college in New Mexico, where she will study criminology and psychology.

[]