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Yankuel Ceballos Named 2018 BGCL Youth of the Year

January 08, 2018

Yankuel Ceballos was helping to clean the cafeteria recently at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence (BGCL) when a boy rushed in looking for supper, which is served each night to more than 500 youth members.

"He looked sad and said there wasn't enough food at home, so I gave him my plate," recalled Ceballos, who volunteers with the supper program through his role as secretary of the Keystone Club youth leadership group. "When I was younger, there were nine of us living in a two-bedroom apartment, and we ate only small portions to make sure everybody got fed. Helping other people now feels good. I make giving back a priority because the club has given so much to me."

In addition to experiencing food insecurity, Ceballos has overcome challenges including added pressure to learn English so he could translate for his Spanish-speaking parents, caring for his two little sisters at a young age and resisting peer pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol. His determination to succeed earned a Montagne scholarship through the club to attend Central Catholic High School, where he is in his senior year. He recently added a significant accomplishment to his college applications: 2018 BGCL Youth of the Year.

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 values of leadership and service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles. The nominees, all of whom exemplify the critical impact that Boys & Girls Clubs have on the lives on young people, progress from their local club to the state, regional and national levels. The National Youth of the Year, who is installed by the President of the United States, serves as an exemplary ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth and a strong voice for all of the nation's young people.

BGCL Executive Director Markus Fischer said the difficulty in selecting the Youth of the Year reflects positively on the club and the "quality of kids in Lawrence as a whole." The Selection Committee consists of five residents of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence who review extensive applications and lead interviews with the candidates.

"By working hard and staying focused," Fischer noted, "our kids can achieve anything."

Ceballos said it "means the world to me" to be selected as Youth of the Year. "I say it all the time, BGCL is my second home and I would not be as determined to be successful without it," he added. "I'm beyond grateful to represent the club."

Ceballos, whose parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, began volunteering in the community and within BGCL as a member of the Torch Club service group for middle school students. He has also participated in the CORE 4 Youth Leadership Summit, competed in basketball and volleyball, gotten out of his comfort zone by learning to dance the salsa and volunteered in the education center with youth members who are learning English as a second language.

Three years ago, Ceballos was awarded a scholarship through the club to attend the Phillips Academy Summer Session, a five-week academic enrichment program that prepares international students with ambitious academic goals for the rigors of top colleges. He got his first job at the club two summers ago, helping to oversee various games and activities. For the past year, he has worked after school at a part-time job also coordinated by the club at Key Polymer in Lawrence.

Ceballos credits BGCL with instilling his strong work ethic and increased patience and self-confidence. "The staff members are like family," he said. "They personally know you, and they're always on your case in a good way. If they see you fall, they pick you back up. All the kids get the same respect and love."

Ceballos, who earned all A's last semester for the first time, aspires to study criminal justice in college and investigate crimes as a forensic scientist or FBI agent. In the meantime, he will channel his penchant for hard work into progressing as far as possible in the Youth of the Year competition.

"So many people are down on Lawrence, but many kids here have a story like mine," Ceballos said. "Being Youth of the Year is a chance for me to show if you want to find a solid place with good kids, just come to the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence."


Did You Know?

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