Jose Guzman, the young junior of the year for the Larimer County Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, said if it wasn’t for the club, he’d likely be home on the phone every day.
Instead, the seventh-grader plays basketball, soccer and dodgeball with classmates from New Vision Charter School and friends from other schools he would never have met otherwise.
He learns to play billiards and the guitar, and to manage a stock portfolio, and he acquires leadership and public speaking skills.
Youth of the Year, an honor given to two students each year, recognizes children who excel in leadership at the 16 clubs in Larimer County.
Guzman said the club’s investment program awards gift cards to the participant with the best wallet in late spring. His portfolio, which includes oil stocks and Bitcoin, currently holds the top spot, which will net him $50 if he continues to perform. Even his father is eager to learn.
“My dad, growing up, he never really got any advice from his dad or his mom about money, how to handle it,” Guzman said. “So what he really wants to do with me is educate himself and me so that one day when I enter the workforce, I can be smart about money.”
The Youth of the Year program is administered by the National Boys and Girls Club and is judged by a panel of locals. The award is largely dependent on a speech given in front of a jury.
This year’s contest, held in February, was judged by Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas, Tracy Stegall of the Thompson School District, Maggie Walsh of Colorado State University and Brandy Alexander. , a longtime club supporter, former club volunteer, and parent of the 2016 Youngster of the Year. Senior winners, many of whom are former juniors of the year themselves, receive a $2,500 scholarship .
The young senior winner of the year is Ashley Elisabeth Solares Caceres, a seventh grader who attends Boltz Middle School in Fort Collins.
In May, the winners will be celebrated at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Larimer County Spring Soiree at the Budweiser Events Center.
Guzman said that without the club, his after-school days wouldn’t involve much.
“Really, all I did was go home and be on my phone,” Guzman said. “Now that I’m here, I have things to do. I have options.
Jessica Schultz, marketing manager for Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, said Guzman’s situation is not uncommon.
“If the kids didn’t have the club, they would usually be home alone or with their friends unsupervised,” she said. Instead, they have the opportunity to socialize and learn with their peers, and even get junior staff jobs, paid positions that use the leadership skills of the kids at the club.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the club is just a phone call away, said Loveland Boys & Girls Club volunteer Kyle Johnson. He worked there full-time, but a scheduling conflict forced him to quit his job.
Shortly after leaving, Johnson called and volunteered to continue working with the children. He said he mentored Guzman for some time.
“Jose is an awesome kid,” Johnson said. “He’s fun, he’s open-minded, he’s helpful, he’s smart. He’s just a great boy. »