Zuleydy P. Named 2019 Youth of the Year

Ever since Zuleydy P. can remember, the importance of education was stressed at home by her mother, Dominga Castro, and reinforced at BGCL where she has been a member since age 7.

Through her determination to succeed, Zuleydy earned a Montagne scholarship through the club to attend Central Catholic High School where she is in her senior year. After her mother passed away last summer, Zuleydy resolved to honor her memory by continuing to study hard so she can become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Zuleydy plans to study sports management at St. John's University this fall with assistance from the prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. She recently added another significant accomplishment to her resume: 2019 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 of 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 says the difficulty in selecting the Youth of the Year reflects positively on the club and the "quality of kids in Lawrence as a whole."

"By working hard and staying focused," Markus says, "our kids can achieve anything."

Zuleydy, a lifelong Lawrence resident, takes the honor seriously. "It's another way of representing where I come from: my city, my club and my home," she says.

Soon after joining the club, Zuleydy discovered her passion for the dance program through which she has enjoyed learning different styles such as bachata, hip hop and salsa. With the dance team, she has performed in numerous club events and local festivals.

Zuleydy continued attending the club nearly each day, participating in Academic Basketball Awareness, the New Balance Healthy Living Club, Science of Sports and the Torch Club. As a high schooler, Zuleydy has become even more involved. She plays on the volleyball team and serves as secretary of the Keystone Club.

Zuleydy has worked part-time at the club for the past two summers, helping to oversee the Dance Academy and other programs. Despite her personal hardships, she has also continued to excel academically with the support and guidance of staff members whom she considers family.

"The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is so important to me because it's my second home. It's where I grew up, and it's where I created new relationships and got involved in programs that I wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to be part of," Zuleydy says. "The club helped me grow into a strong young woman. Now I want to give back so future kids who come here can enjoy all the same experiences and opportunities that have been given to me - and for which I am so thankful."