Last night marked a major accomplishment in the life of CEC sophomore Savanna Garza. As a nearly ten year member of the Johnson Branch of the Boys & Girls Club, Garza was named Youth of the Year for her club. This award is prestigious in it’s own right, but for Garza it was the highest honor she could have imagined receiving and filled her with pride in her accomplishments. “It’s the highest honor,” she said. “Even the little kids look at me and say they want to grow up to be just like me.”
Garza has been attending the Boys and Girls Club since she was six years old, following in the footsteps of her older siblings. The Club has been an afterschool safe haven for Savanna who has used the opportunity to discover herself and to inspire her academic success. For Savanna, it’s been a family-type atmosphere, where she could feel comfortable. “They’ve showed me different sides I’ve never seen of myself. They brought out a new person— the real person. They brought me out of my shell,” she said of the experience.
The mission of the Boys & Girls Club is to “To empower every Club member, through safe and impactful experiences, to: graduate high school with a plan for college or career, contribute to their community and live a healthy life.” The Club steps in to provide resources ranging from hot meals to academic support and encouragement for students who might not have those opportunities or means at home. Although Savanna’s mom is her hero and strongest supporter, she is a single parent who not only works part-time, but attends school full-time. The Boys & Girls Club helps fill the gap so that Savanna’s mother can make a better life for herself and her family, while her children are engaging in enriching activities, making friends and having access to meals. “It’s a rec center that has an education center, art room, computer lab and they serve meals,” Savanna described the Club. “It’s like being in school, but there is more freedom as to where you want to spend your time. She goes everyday after school and stays until 7:30p.m. While she is there, she gets her homework done.
Savanna was nominated for the award, by staff of the Boys and Girls Club, for her leadership qualities, dedication and for being a well-rounded student. In order to be considered for the final award, she had to write six essays on the topics of: Home and Family, Education, Changing the World, What the Boys & Girls Club means to her, Her Role Model and Being a Leader. Susanna’s essays cover parts of her life from her late grandfather and her mother as role models, to the importance of her family, her educational goals and more. At last night’s ceremony she gave her award speech and was presented with a plaque and $150.
Savanna would like to attend the University of Hawaii and if this award isn’t a sign of the future, one conversation with her is enough to know that she is a student who has a good head on her shoulders, solid goals and the enthusiasm and support to achieve them.