Lots of winners say it, but accepting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica "Youth of the Year" accolade last weekend was actually a dream come true for David Ramirez. Three years ago, as he watched a girl bestowed with the same honor, he said he set a "goal to win that award someday."
With the award in hand, Ramirez, 17, is aspiring to something much bigger. He wants to be the CEO of the club that has provided him with a grip of mentors to fulfill his and his parents' dream of attending college, he said.
"There’s no obstacle big enough to keep me from going to college," he said.
Club officials said they selected Ramirez from among four extraordinary local youth in recognition of his outstanding contributions of service to the club and his community, and his exceptional leadership among his peers.
They said he overcame a number of challenges, including obesity, low self-esteem and a lack of academic focus. He participates in programs including CollegeBound, Keystone and Leaders in Training.
As the 2011 Youth of the Year, Ramirez will serve as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica’s youth spokesperson in the community.
For Ramirez, the first step toward perhaps leading the organization one day to attend USC and earn a business degree.
His mom and dad both dropped out of school at young ages while growing up in Mexico, each to help support their families. Though their schooling was limited, their siblings went on to become dentists, lawyers and the like.
"My mom tells me... [just] because she didn’t, doesn’t mean that I'm not going to," he said.
A senior at Santa Monica High School, Ramirez is a member of the Spanish and Knitting clubs.
He will advance to the Boys & Girls Club county-level competition to vie for a scholarship. If he wins there, he can move on to state, regional and national Youth of the Year competitions. Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C., to compete for the title of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. The national winner will receive an additional scholarship of up to $50,000 and will meet the president in an Oval Office ceremony.