Silvia Said. Courtesy photo

Samohi junior Silvia Said has been named this year’s Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica (BGCSM) Youth of the Year for her commitment to the Club and the Santa Monica community, earning a total of $4,000 in scholarships that she hopes to use at USC, en route to her eventual career goal of joining the FBI.

Each year, the nonprofit organization names a high schooler as its Youth of the Year; the winner is the member who best exemplifies the BGCSM’s “four core qualities”: preparedness to be successful in 21st century education and career pathways; social and emotional competencies (such as adaptability, resilience, emotional regulation, interpersonal communication skills, confidence and self-efficacy); a desire for and commitment to practicing healthy habits, such as healthy eating and regular physical activity, financial responsibility and empowerment; and commitment to community and service leadership.

Said was chosen from among five candidates who spoke during the virtual ceremony on Thursday, March 3.

“I do want to stress that every single one of these candidates are exceptional youth that are on a very strong path to success in their lives in so many ways,” BGCSM CEO Emily Ausbrook said. “They all brought so many unique talents, skills and experience to the table and I know that the judges had a really hard time deciding. I really want the candidates to know that because that is 100 percent true.”

Said spoke to her experience as an immigrant and the way her eight years of involvement with the Club helped her get to where she is today.

“As an immigrant, I feel as though I’ve always been told I’ll never get through school or I’ll never be able to speak English because I’ll always have a heavy accent,” she said. “I’m proud to say I’ve broken the stereotypes, and I hope to break many more.”

Said completed more than 100 service hours volunteering at the Santa Monica Public Library before she began high school. She also completed the high-intensity 12-week South Bay Regional Explorers Academy, becoming an official Explorer for the Santa Monica Police Department. She is also involved in Samohi Theatre and Color Guard. According to the BGCSM, “She is now one of our top Leaders in Training as well as a member of our Keystone Club at Main Branch.”

One accomplishment Said highlighted was the work she did to help protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After recognizing how badly COVID had affected my family, I decided to complete a sewing mentorship where I learned how to sew masks by hand, which were then provided to the homeless population in my community in order to help keep them safe,” she said.

Each candidate received a $1,000 higher-education scholarship from Board President Tom Larmore. Said received a $3,000 higher education scholarship and runner-up Jayson Bautista received an additional $1,000 scholarship.

Bautista, a sophomore at University High School is a member of the Mar Vista Gardens branch of the BGCSM. He said his dream is to become a pilot for the Air Force following high school.

Bautista said growing up in the Mar Vista Gardens housing project, he witnessed kids his age joining gangs, smoking and drinking, but having his parents send him to the club was “the best decision that I ever made.”

“I am forever indebted … to the Club,” Bautista said. “They have taught me new things and new ways to learn. The only way I can repay [that is by] paving a new path for the next generation to come. And I know I can do this.”

Bautista also advocated for adults to take children’s mental health seriously, calling it an “ongoing problem” for many kids.

“Mental health is something that adults don’t seem to realize we [need to] keep in mind,” Bautista said. “I know with kids in the Boys and Girls Club, kids can come and find happiness and find a way to escape this problem.”

The other candidates were Jazmin Vasquez, Nathan Castanza and Joshua Torres.