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Rosa R. Named 2016 Youth of the Year

December 10, 2015

When she was 8 years old, Rosa Reynoso of Lawrence remembers enthusiastically telling her mother, "One day, I want to be just like you!"

Nicauris Cruz looked at her daughter with eyes tired from another long workday packing boxes for minimum wage at a local factory, in order to support three children on her own. "No, mija," she replied. "Your future is going to be much brighter."

Now 17, Reynoso recalls this moment as a turning point in her life. At age 10, she joined the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and began seeking tutoring in the education center in order to reach her academic goals. She has served for the last two years as president of the Keystone Club, a teen leadership program through which she has donated more than 550 hours of community service. The senior at Central Catholic High School, which she attends on the Montagne Scholarship, currently helps lead the club's Girl Lab! program for middle schoolers alongside Raytheon engineers while aspiring to study engineering at Northeastern University.

In fact, Reynoso has earned multiple scholarships and awards over the years. However, none is more prestigious than her most recent honor as the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence 2016 Youth of the Year nominee for Massachusetts.

Established in 1947, Youth of the Year is the Boys & Girls Club of America's premiere recognition program for club members 14 to 18 years old, promoting service, academic success, strong moral character, life goals, and public speaking ability. State winners of the program, which is sponsored by Tupperware Brands Corporation, receive a $1,000 scholarship and participate in regional competitions. Five regional winners each earn a $10,000 scholarship and compete on the national level. The National Youth of the Year receives up to an additional $50,000 scholarship and is installed by the President of the United States.

"I'm so grateful for this opportunity because it's the greatest recognition I could receive," said Reynoso, who is a Central Catholic Marist mentor to younger club kids, captain of her cross country team, and member of the varsity track team on top of her academic pursuits. "It represents who I am and what I love, which is helping others and the club. It's my second home, my safe haven."

Jody Raineri, the teen director at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence whom Reynoso considers a father figure, said she has long been a role model due to her academic achievements, leadership, and ability to overcome adversity. Just two years ago, a fire destroyed her family's home weeks before Christmas, leaving them with only the clothes they were wearing.

"In the seven years that Rosa has been a club member, she has dedicated herself to achieving the dream that her parents brought her to America to fulfill: a good education," Raineri said. "At the same time, she is determined to make a difference in the world, just as she has done at the club."

Reynoso, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Dominican Republic, said she embraces the added pressure to "prove that through hard work, anything is possible, regardless of your ethnicity." She believes that her Youth of the Year candidacy will enable her to reach out to other youths who are experiencing hardships "because I've been there."

"I want to represent my city in a positive way, so people realize that kids from Lawrence are talented," she added. "I think about all the obstacles I've overcome, and I'm proud. I feel like I can do great things."


Did You Know?

The Alumni Association has donated over $6,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence since its establishment in 2002.