LINCOLN BLVD — In order to persevere, a person has to go through hardship. They have to rise above the challenges they face and come out a better, wiser and stronger person.
Gretchen Galanis knows those experiences all too well, having gone through a difficult time earlier in her adolescent years. Through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, however, she was able to find her place and come into her own.
“When I had nobody else, the club was there for me,” she said.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, Galanis was awarded the prestigious Youth of the Year award from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica. The award is given out to teens who exemplified exceptional service to the club, community, family, academic success, strong moral character, life goals, poise, and public speaking ability, according to a press release.
Galanis, winning the award ahead of three other candidates, was humbled to be the nominee who was chosen.
“It was a shock,” she said. “Either one of us would’ve been great candidates for the award.”
Galanis’ aspirations are a direct result of her experience at the club. When she graduates high school, she wants to major in international relations and minor in communications. She also wants to join the Navy after college and open a Naval branch of the Boys & Girls Club, she said.
“I want children to have the same things I have,” Galanis said about her career goals. “If I had it, everybody can have it.”
Galanis has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club for the past five years. Originally, she attended the location in Venice, but moved to the Santa Monica branch because it was closer to her mother’s place of work. The club has become her second home, she said.
”It’s so close knit. Everyone feels connected. There’s no borders, no lines, no one has to hide,” she said. “The club is here for you.”
Members of the Boys & Girls Club are all given mentors to help them along in their journey of growth. Galanis’ mentor is Johnny Lopez, to whom she credits much of her success.
“There were times I wanted to quit,” she said. “If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would’ve done it.”
Now that she has won at the local level, Galanis will move on to the L.A. county Youth of the Year competition in March, where she will receive a scholarship should she win.