The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada recently honored a Canyon Springs High School student as its Youth of the Year.
Dione Eagles, director of the organization’s Montandon Clubhouse, 2627 Donna St., nominated Ulysses Martinez, 17. He was awarded a $2,500 scholarship.
“My family is really happy for me,” Martinez said. “I will be the first generation of my family to go to college. They’re really proud that I made it this far.”
Eagles also nominated him in 2012 and 2013.
“He used to be really quiet and just keep to himself,” Eagles said. “I’ve seen him grow a lot since then. He’s learned that he’s capable of doing great things.”
The award was established in 1947 as a way to recognize club members who promote service to the club, community and family.
To be nominated, youths must maintain academic success, a strong moral character, life goals and poise and public speaking abilities.
The award is given to recipients ages 14 to 18.
Clubhouse directors from different Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada nominated nine youths. They were sent to take part in a local competition in front of five judges, giving speeches based on how the club has helped them achieve their goals.
Out of the nine, five made it to the next level of the competition.
Martinez was chosen to represent the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada at the state competition.
He is scheduled to compete with six other people March 11 and 12, and judges will critique them based on their speeches and how they perform during individual interviews.
He is competing to win an additional $1,000 scholarship. State winners also go on to participate in regional competitions, where the winner will compete at a national level in Washington, D.C., in September.
“I was honestly shocked and surprised when I found out that I was chosen,” Martinez said. “Dione has been like a second mom to me.”
Martinez attributes his personal success to the mentorship and support he has received from the club.
“I was a shy kid before I came to participate in the activities,” Martinez said. “This place has helped me deal with peer pressure in school and has kept me from getting involved with bad behavior.”
He also said the club has helped him become a stronger person.
Through the club, Martinez was awarded the Ken Rubeli work scholarship award in March 2013.
He works three times a week as a program aide. When he is not working, Martinez volunteers to clean, play and help children with homework at the club.
In addition to volunteering and working at the club, Martinez said he mows his neighbor’s lawn, volunteers at his church and has become a role model for younger children.
“I’m passionate about helping younger kids because (I faced a lot of obstacles) when I was younger, and I don’t want them to feel like I did,” Martinez said.
Martinez started coming to the club when he was in seventh grade. He said it takes him approximately 30 minutes skateboarding from his home to get to the club.
He is also the captain of his high school varsity soccer team, and under his leadership, his team reaches the playoffs in 2013.
Even with all of his extracurricular activities, Martinez holds a 3.4 GPA.
Although he was initially skeptical about the club, his unit director, Eagles, started mentoring him and pushing him to succeed.
Martinez plans to graduate in June and hopes to attend the College of Southern Nevada and then transfer to UNLV, where he has dreams of studying culinary arts and becoming a chef.
“He’s a good kid,” Eagles said. “He gets good grades, he’s respectful and he’s so deserving of this award. I see the potential that he has.”
Contact North Las Vegas and Centennial View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.