On March 2, 2023, the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester (BGCNW) held their annual Youth of the Year event at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua. The Youth of the Year event honors youth in the Club who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and service within the Club and local community.
After a delightful period of mingling, everyone’s attention was called to the front and center of the room, where BGCNW’s CEO Alyzza Ozer gave an impassioned speech calling attention to the importance of BGCNW’s work–especially ensuring children receive proper meals, academic, fitness, leadership, and mental health supports. She shared that the Club’s key differentiator is civic advocacy and leadership and that 87% of Club members who regularly attend programing will consistently give back to their community as adults.
Several people in attendance at the event were recognized for being influential in supporting the Club’s recent work, including state assemblyman Chris Burdick, County Legislator Erika Pierce, Dr. DaMia Harris Madden ED of The Westchester County Youth Bureau, and Michael Orth, Commissioner at the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health. Ozer emphasized that the Club’s impact is proof that school districts, governments, community-based organizations, business leaders, and volunteers can effectively work together to strengthen communities.
Other BGCNW staff members spoke eloquently about the youth programming that the Club offers, queuing up to an explanation of the Youth of the Year program and an introduction of this year’s finalists.
Afterward, three of the five youth finalists gave speeches–sharing their stories, including personal struggles and positive, life-affirming experiences with the Club. The first, Valentina Cabrera, a junior at Brewster High School, spoke of how a speech impediment she was born with hindered her self-confidence growing up, and how she was able to overcome it with the help of the Club, saying, “thanks to the Boys and Girls Club, I have gained the confidence and strength for moments like these”.
Valentina also spoke about the integral role that the Club has played in her life, including offering her many leadership opportunities and remaining a constant in her life through many changes.
Next, Xio Nieves, a junior at Fox Lane High School, said the Club has offered him opportunities such as working with younger kids, noting that “what surprised me most about working with the preschoolers was how much they liked me!”, a remark eliciting some laughter from the audience. Xio also described how the Club helped him become more comfortable with his identity, and ended, saying, “Right now, I am proud to say, I am Xio Nieves, and I am a Club kid”.
Lastly, Zayaan Hussain, a junior at Horace Greeley High School, spoke about the roles that the loss of his aunt and his participation in the Club’s programs have had on his personal growth. Additionally, Zayaan revealed how despite being born with cerebral palsy, he learned to walk and swim, and said that “nothing should ever be considered impossible. I was told it would be impossible for me to walk, and yet, here I am.”
Those three youth finalists were then presented special awards from the Club. Xio was awarded the Wilfred E. Jennings Award, Zayan was awarded the Chris Cutri Memorial Award, and finally, Valentina received the Youth of the Year award, presented by Jane Solnick, Director of Corporate Affairs from Con Edison, the evening’s main sponsor.
As the evening’s events concluded, the room was once again bustling as people filled their plates with dinner provided by Kittle staff.
Congratulations to all the finalists!
Please save the date, June 2, 2023, for the Club’s annual Spring Gala and Storytelling Event. Visit bgcnw.com for more information and tickets.