The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley - Arizona serves nearly 30,000 youths a year, so highlighting each of our outstanding success stories would be an impossible task. These young people truly embody the spirit of the BGCAZ, and we are proud to call them our members.
The Stewart Branch of the Boys & Girls Club has been a home for Mikayla since she was young, helping her to grow as a person and find immense success in her interests. Raised with a single mom, the Club initially provided Mikayla with after-school child care but quickly became much more than that. A shy youth, she grew into leadership roles including serving as President of the Torch Club, acted as the Vice President of the Keystone Club — serving and strengthening her community in the process. Mikayla says that her favorite part of being a member of the Club was walking through the doors and instantly feeling at home.
Her Boys & Girls Club also connected her to opportunities in line with her interests- like drama and photography. After being encouraged to enter one of her photos by a mentor at the Club, she won a National Photo Contest.
In addition, she has also received a prestigious $100,000 scholarship for college from Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD Foundation and Jay-Z's Shawn Carter Foundation, an accolade that was made possible with her outstanding work ethic and the mentorship of staff at the Club. Mikayla was surprised with the award while attending a Beyonce concert as part of a Club activity, and was congratulated by both Beyonce and Jay-Z after the show.
Mikayla is now studying behavioral science at Grand Canyon University and plans to eventually work at a private practice.
Loud, fun, joy. These three words are how 2017 Youth of the Year Leo Cano describes the Boys & Girls Club. Born in Mexico City and growing up in Arizona, the Club was a second home for Leo to thrive and become a leader within his community. He has excelled within a diverse range of interests while also serving his community: as a President of the L.I.T. program, a coach for youth soccer, and an artist.
Although initially struggling with balancing Spanish speaking at home and English at school, the Club helped Leo gain presentation and leadership skills that have allowed him to be a key advocate. While applying for the prestigious Youth of the Year award, Leo’s family came upon difficult times. The Club greatly supported Leo’s family during this time, making it possible for him to continue his application and eventually win the Youth of the Year award.
Leo returned as a staff member while attending college and was able to utilize his bilingual skills to help communicate with members of his community and the parents of many participants, an invaluable skill. Although he never saw himself as a leader when he was young, the Club helped him realize his potential as an amazing leader.
As a member of the club for 12 years, the Boys and Girls Club has been a rock for Cami throughout her life, helping her develop both her academic and leadership skills. Cami joined the Queen Creek Branch when she was in 2nd grade. With two parents that worked multiple jobs to support her family, the Club’s safe and welcoming community helped her to find new friends and flourish.
Cami cites the Club’s mentor program as a major factor in her interest in medicine and STEM. Due to opportunities provided to her by the Club, Cami has shadowed nurses and volunteered at Banner Ironwood Medical Hospital, dissected squids as part of a marine life educational program at Legoland, and has recently become a Certified Nursing Assistant- all while providing service and volunteering for her community.
After graduating at the top of her class, Cami is now studying nursing at the University of Arizona. She hopes to develop her passion for community service and helping others into a career in nursing.
During Jessica’s childhood, the Boys & Girls Clubs helped her to excel in her interdisciplinary passions of dance and science, all while serving as a leader to her community. Jessica was inspired to join the Chandler Compadre Branch at age 11 and she went on to become President of Keystone and Torch Clubs, served the city of Chandler through active community service, and discovered her interests through a range of diverse and supportive mentors.
Jessica said that during one of the most difficult times of her life, when her family was struggling with personal and financial hardships, the Club was highly supportive and loving. She was forced to give up some of her favorite activities, but she remained a member of the Club. Jessica recalls that the Club enabled her to achieve her full potential through their constant support as well as the opportunities and training that they provided her.
Jessica returned to the Clubs as staff member, where she was instrumental in developing a successful dance program for the Club. She graduated from Arizona State University with a focus on dance and educational studies. She works as a studio manager and dance teacher for Dance 101 in Tempe and plans to get her master’s degree in secondary education in order to pursue her passion for teaching science.