Photo credit Mark J. Sebastian.
On February 25th, at the Moldaw-Zaffaroni Clubhouse in East Palo Alto, Olivia Luna received the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula Youth of the Year Award. Previously, Luna had been nominated as the 2016 Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula Youth of the Year Representative. At this event, there were 12 other nominees from other Menlo Park, Redwood City and East Palo Alto clubs. Luna explained that “the award is given to those who have overcome obstacles and/or hardships, someone who embodies the values of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and who shows interest in making sure they are receiving a good education.”
The preparation before the award ceremony was a long and drawn-out process. Before winning, Olivia and her peers prepared speeches and essays, and also met with judges on the night of the event. The nominees needed to get letters of recommendation and complete up to 100 hours of community service. That night, Luna gave her speech to a crowd of about 400 people.
Luna entered this competition during her junior year. That year, she won the East Palo Alto Boys and Girls Club Award, but not for the peninsula. Because she won last year for her clubhouse, Luna automatically advanced to the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula finals this year.
“I entered this competition because I want to help make a change in the East Palo Alto community. Many youths lack education because their parents never received an education or [the students came] from broken homes,” shared Luna. She also wanted to help young people see that just because they come from a low income community, it does not mean they cannot be successful. She hopes in the future that more youth from the East Palo Alto community will graduate high school and go to a four-year college.
Luna shared, “When they called my name on the stage I was shocked. I cried tears of joy. I have gone through a lot throughout my life, from having cerebral palsy since birth, to losing a second father figure at the age of eight, to being separated from my little brother for almost two years now. Winning Youth of the Year meant that though I have been through a lot, I am still able to be successful.” For Luna, this was a victory not only for herself, but for her family.
Update, March 15: Luna has won the Northern California Youth of the Year Award! She will be at the state event on April 6th at Stanford University.