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Warriors Assistant Coach Kris Weems Helps Select BGCP's Youth Of The Year
November 14, 2011
Warriors Assistant Coach Kris Weems Helps Select BGCP's Eighth Grade Youth Of The Year
By Sara Gaviser Leslie, Special to warriors.com

Warriors Assistant Coach for Athletic Development Kris Weems poses with Omar Avellon, the BGCP's 2011 Eighth Grade Youth of the Year.

Weems was part of the panel that selected the BGCP's 2011 Eighth Grade Youth of the Year.

Each Youth of the Year finalist made a speech explaining why they deserved the award.

Weems and fellow panelist Tim Brady of Imagine K12 listened to each speech before selecting a winner for the BGCP's Eighth Grade Youth of the Year.
Stand up before a group of family members, friends, and strangers and talk about your life’s journey? Get grilled by a judging panel of community leaders including Kris Weems, assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors; Tim Brady, managing partner, Imagine K12; Minh Ngo, president, 100 Women Charitable Foundation; and Tom Friel, former CEO of Heidrick and Struggles and vice chairman of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation? How many eighth graders would agree to do this? At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP), at least, the Youth of the Year finalists view it as an honor to take on these daunting tasks.

The mission of BGCP is to guide and inspire the youth of our community to develop the attitudes and life skills they need to thrive. The clubs provide places where young people aged 6 through 18 are welcome and can belong after school and all day during the summer. At seven sites located in the most challenged areas of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and Redwood City, California, trained and caring staff and a cadre of volunteers work through a broad range of programs to guide and inspire youth to develop the attitudes and life skills they need to thrive. BGCP, with an annual budget of $6 million, is regarded as one of the most comprehensive youth development organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Youths of the Year are eighth grade club members who have demonstrated leadership and resiliency in and out of school as well as a strong academic record and a commitment to their family and communities. This year, 13 young people at three BGCP each wrote two personal essays and a speech; spent a month’s worth of Saturdays revising their writing, learning how to deliver speeches, and practicing interviewing; and then took part in site-level ceremonies at which judges selected a Youth of the Year to represent each site. On November 8, Omar Avellan, Roman Loza, and Melvin Santos--the three young men selected to represent their sites as Youth of the Year--took the podium at the Youth of the Year finals in Redwood City..

Part celebration, part ceremony, the Youth of the Year events recognize young leaders in the Boys & Girls Club community. BGCP Board member Dana Weintraub remarked, "Youth of the Year exemplifies what it means to be a member of the BGCP community. It brings together BGCP youth and their families, staff, and supporters to celebrate the outstanding members who so eloquently share their amazing accomplishments with us. I am inspired and honored to be a part of BGCP." Before audience members arrived, the finalists interviewed individually with each judge. Then, after judges and youths alike were introduced through a cheer tunnel of Youth of the Year nominees, the finalists delivered their thoughtful, moving speeches.

Each finalist spoke about his driving mantra, otherwise known at BGCP as his “be word” (his version of what it means to exemplify the Boys & Girls Club motto, Be Great) For thirteen-year-old Omar Avellan, his philosophy is “be creative.” Originally from Nicaragua, Avellan is fascinated by inventions and creative ways to help others. In a group, he sees himself as the thread that holds everyone together. As student council president, Avellan listens to others’ ideas and synthesizes their collective thoughts. He called himself the “foreman of a job site.” He views education as the way he will improve and change his life. It is the bridge to success. Avellan hopes to attend Sacred Heart Prep and, eventually, become a computer scientist.

Roman Loza’s goal is to “be sagacious.” He wants to be wise and intelligent and have an open mind. He strives to be a good representative of his family, friends, and the Boys & Girls Club, of which he’s been a member since age six! He recalled his struggles to learn English but now proclaims, “I will graduate.” He is passionate about soccer and being a good role model for his younger brother. He hopes to someday become a lawyer but, first, aims to attend Woodside Priory. He knows he has a long road ahead but, with confidence, says, “I’ve come a long way but I have a long way to go.”

Thirteen-year-old Melvin Santos is a risk taker. He is not afraid of anything and believes “perseverance is the road to victory.” He came to the US from El Salvador at the age of three. For reasons of economics and traditions, Santos’ mother left school after ninth grade. She brought her children to the U.S. so they would not share her fate. Despite the gratitude Santos feels for growing up in the U.S., he spoke about “contamination on the Peninsula. The neighborhoods are dealing with hatred and death; due to violence, everyone has lost someone.” Professionally, he aspires to be a choreographer but promises that strengthening his community will also be one of his chief goals. Santos explained that he was “born to be somebody.” His “be word” is “be proud,” and his speech exemplified that sentiment

At the end of the night, while the audience enjoyed performances from other BGCP youth, the judges deliberated over which finalist should represent all of BGCP as Eighth Grade Youth of the Year. Before they presented their selection, they commented on all the finalists’ poise, confidence, and polish. Friel was particuarly impressed. He explained, “I spent 30 years interviewing, judging talent. The candidates I met had 20 to 30 years to prepare for the interview and they did no better than you did tonight.” Finally, the judges made their announcement: the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula was proud to honor Omar Avellon as this year’s Eighth Grade Youth of the Year.

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