Youth of the Year 2016: Meet the Candidates
- February 16, 2016
- Posted by: Andrew Cunningham
- Category: Happenings
Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth recognition program, which brings awareness, hope and opportunity to our nation’s most deserving and awe-inspiring young people. For nearly 70 years, the Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated inspiring teens and their incredible stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle.
There are three Youth of the Year candidates from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County. They are (pictured above left to right) Auria Castagnola, Emily Daniels-Flechtner and Lesley Baretto. Each of the members will be honored at the Youth of the Year Banquet May 19, which is sponsored by Bay Federal Credit Union.
Auria Castagnola, 17, relocated to Santa Cruz two years ago from Modesto. Throughout high school, she has participated in cheer, dance, and taken a leadership role in Smart Girls, the teen female empowerment group at the Boys & Girls Clubs.
She said her mother is the woman she most admires. Auria has developed a love for working with children and wants to pursue a career in youth development.
“I think the most important issue facing my generation is bullying because, for victims of bullying, the problem is so persistent that it often robs these young people of hope,” Auria said. “What I like most about the Boys & Girls Clubs is that the organization is equipped with the best staff. Because if it didn’t have dedicated and compassionate staff members, us youth would not have the mentors we need to be successful.”
Emily Daniels- Flechtner, 15, moved to Santa Cruz from Ohio and has been a Boys & Girls Club member for 8 years and has recently started volunteering at the club. Emily has earned many awards for academic achievement, involvement in sports, and participation in school bands. She enjoys giving back to her community by being in Girl Scouts of America and aspires to pursue a degree in English from UC Berkeley.
“I think the most important issue facing my generation is the overuse of technology and the dangerous distractions it poses,” Emily said. “Youth today have become unaware and negligent of their surroundings and seem unable to engage in face to face conversations with each other.”
The woman she most admires is former U.S. Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Lesley Baretto, also 15, is a member of the Gay-Student Alliance and Student Mental Health Awareness Club at school and has been a member of the Shoreline Club for 5 years. She served as the Torch Club Secretary and a founding member of the Rainbow Alliance. In 2013 she received the Spirit Award for Achievement in the
Lesley is a Santa Cruz native who wants to study neurosciences at Stanford University.
“I think the most important issue facing my generation is the stigma of mental health because of a lack of open conversation surrounding this issue,” Lesley said. “What I like most about the Boys & Girls Clubs is the community because of its diversity among both members and staff
The woman she admires most is herself because “everyone is unique and you shouldn’t mirror someone else,” she said.