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As temperatures soared past the triple digits Tuesday evening, police officers, firefighters and community members fanned out across Solano County to celebrate National Night Out.

From potlucks to carnivals to simple meet-and-greets, each gathering accomplished the same goal — neighbors getting outside and forming partnerships with each other and local law enforcement.

Don’t forget about the fun, reminded youth at the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.

Games abounded in the parking lot, with areas for a ring toss, basket toss, watermelon-eating contest and bean bag toss.

There also were free popcorn and chicken nachos, as well as a gigantic water slide.

Vacaville firefighters descended on the Club in full gear, challenging youth to a rousing game of basketball.

Both sides were surprisingly good and, judging by all the howls of glee, both enjoyed the camaraderie.

Vacaville fire Chief Kris Concepcion tried a few hands at the ring toss before calling it quits and switching to basketball tosses.

“These events are awesome,” he said. “It’s a longstanding tradition.”

Following a few more throws, he added another thought.

“Nights like this, they get everybody out,” he said, indicating his firefighters romping around the court with local youth, police officers parking across the street, parents looking out for everyone’s children. “Everyone gets to know each other.”

Junior Arteaga, 15, agreed.

A longtime Club kid, he helped set up and had a little fun, too.

“It’s good,” he said, of all the activities. “I like that the kids are enjoying this. Seeing the smiles on their faces. It’s all for them.”

The event was important, he continued, because it gets everyone together. Not just Club kids, he said, but the whole community.

That, in a nutshell, is National Night Out. The annual event has participants leaving their lights on and staying outside to start or strengthen community relationships. Knowledge, as they say, is safety.

By Kimberly K. Fu, kfu@thereporter.com, @ReporterKimFu on Twitter

 

The sharp tang of onions, rich aroma of garlic and sweet essence of carrot cake blended Monday in the kitchen at Vacaville’s Opportunity House, where teens from the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club whipped up dinner for residents of the homeless shelter.

Giggling like only teens do, more than a handful of youths worked their magic chopping veggies and working the ovens.

It’s the umpteenth time over a period of four or so years that the Club kids found themselves at the homeless shelter, prepping and cooking, baking and serving.

The day started with the littlest Club kids plucking the tower gardens for the meal — fat leaves of Swiss Chard, heads of Bok Choy, and more. Continue reading “Vacaville teens cook for area’s homeless” »

Gleeful.

That sums up the atmosphere at the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club Friday as dozens of youths swarmed the Easter basket-laden Vacaville firefighters outside.

Cheering and chattering, they happily accepted the giant presents, compliments of the Baskets of Hope project, and gathered with friends to unwrap the baskets and enjoy the gifts inside. Continue reading “Easter Comes Early For Vacaville Youths” »

Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Logan Nottingham, 11, snacks on a sweet he won during a cake walk at the Acacia branch of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.
Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Logan Nottingham, 11, snacks on a sweet he won during a cake walk at the Acacia branch of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.
Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Alaina Cortijo, 10, right, runs the rubber duck game at the Acacia branch of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Alaina Cortijo, 10, right, runs the rubber duck game at the Acacia branch of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.

Music played, bacon-wrapped hot dogs tempted and games beckoned Friday at the Acacia branch of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club.

Such was the local celebration of National Boys & Girls Clubs of America week.

As kids played happily in front of the Acacia Center, parents chatted with staff and enjoyed themselves, too.

Alaina Cortijo, 10, eagerly explained her rubber duck game.

“You have to pick two ducks,” she said, plucking the birdies from a red container. “If they match, you get a candy.”

Angel Herrera, 11, emphasized that the make a boat float game was easy for him.

“You make it into a square,” he said, folding his foil piece, dumping marbles on it and watching it stay afloat. Success!

Soraya James, 6, just wanted a hug.

So she ran up to her favorite volunteer, Susan Schwartz, and gave her a big hug.

“It’s good,” she said, of the event and the hug. Her favorite game? “The watermelon challenge.”

Drake Gutierrez, 8, enjoyed the food. He took a big bite of his nachos while surveying the other goodies — the hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and snow cones.

His mom, meanwhile, explained her love of the club.

“He has gone up two levels in his reading because of all her personal attention,” said Andrea Gutierrez of the Acacia Center’s leader, Josefina Arteaga.

The sports, teamwork, diversity and more are also great, she said.

“You get it all in one place,” she enthused.

Another plus, she added, is the cohesive atmosphere.

“These kids work together as a family because of Josefina,” she said. “She’s wonderful.”

For her part, Arteaga remained humble.

“The priority for me is the kids have fun,” she said. “Seeing them all happy and smiling, my day is made.”

Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Sergio Maciel, Youth of the Year for the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, competes in Mountain View to move on to the state contest in Sacramento.
Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Sergio Maciel, Youth of the Year for the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, competes in Mountain View to move on to the state contest in Sacramento.
Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Flanked by his mom, Lorena Maciel, left, and aunt, Teresa Ramirez, Sergio Maciel of Vacaville takes a break from the Youth of the Year finals on the Microsoft campus.Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Flanked by his mom, Lorena Maciel, left, and aunt, Teresa Ramirez, Sergio Maciel of Vacaville takes a break from the Youth of the Year finals on the Microsoft campus.

Duded up in a white shirt and black-on-black pinstripe suit early Thursday, Sergio Maciel of Vacaville tackled public speaking on the Microsoft campus and won.

But though the 15-year-old did not advance to the state level of the National Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year competition, he remains an inspiration at his local club.

“I’m very proud of Sergio and what he has achieved as a leader,” said Anna Eaton, executive director of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club. “As Youth of the Year he continues to raise the bar and our level of expectations, I can’t think of any better youth to do that. You,” she continued, addressing the youth, “You went further than any Youth of the Year.”

Of about 45 applicants, Sergio was one of 18 chosen to participate in the first round of finals.

Following a morning of interviews and talks, he made it to the second round, a total of nine competitors vying for the final three.

Nervous the evening before, his mom, Lorena, said he was a bit anxious.

“He couldn’t sleep,” she recalled.

But Thursday came, along with a new outlook.

“I was excited for a long time but I woke up this morning fully energized,” he said.

Likely why he was in the shower at 3:30 a.m. before his ride came two hours later.

On the Mountain View campus, Sergio had a blast. He gave his speech, talking about diversity and community, and made a lot of friends.

He also hung out in The Garage, playing with cool techno gadgets like a virtual reality game he showed his mom on a break. As she navigated the equipment, a staffer talked her through what she was seeing.

“There’s a shark and dinosaurs,” he said. “And there should be a gorilla.”

Later, Sergio was again called to give a speech. This time, he presented in front of judges and guests.

Jumping off the stage, he said he felt really good — regardless of the outcome.

“It’s a great honor,” he said, adding that he’d received supportive texts, including one from his English class at Will C. Wood High, throughout the day. “Everyone that was here was tremendous. The top nine were just better able to express themselves better.”

Though Sergio ultimately did not make the final three, he was nonetheless pleased with his swag bag, $250 award and everything he’d learned that day.

His aim is to return to his friends at the Boys & Girls Club and share.

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“I’ll tell them everything I experienced today,” he pledged, “and prepare them for it.”

Leaving Microsoft, a judge wished him well and told him she fully expected to see him again next year as he just blew her away.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” he replied with a grin.

Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Sergio Maciel, the Youth of the Year for the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, shares how the club experience has impacted his life.
Kimberly K. Fu — The Reporter Sergio Maciel, the Youth of the Year for the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, shares how the club experience has impacted his life.

With an air of confidence as big as his lion’s mane of curls Thursday night, Sergio Maciel embraced the crowd gathered at the Opera House and gave insight on how the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club has impacted his young life.

The 15-year-old Youth of the Year spoke about improving himself, learning about diversity and life lessons — like how people are more alike than different.

“We all dream. We all have some type of story,” he began. “We all want to be at peace. We all want to be recognized. We all want to be happy.”

The club, he said, gave him the opportunity to explore himself, others, the community and the world.

Recently, he was able to indulge his love of engineering and, with an array of cardboard boxes, shared it with youth throughout the community. As well, his new skills helped him secure the post of president of the Keystone Club and be part of the Youth Summit Committee by way of Will C. Wood’s Interact Club.

“The Boys & Girls Club changed my life,” he said.

The teen’s eloquent testimony paved the way for David Esparza’s state of the club address at the club’s annual Raise Your Glass event.

Esparza, president of the club’s board, expressed pride in Sergio and the club, as well.

For 2017, he shared numerous goals the club hopes to achieve.

Among them:

• Continuing to grow the board, from 10 members to 15, and prospering as an organization.

“We want to make the board stronger,” he said.

• Continuing training and educating the board to make them the best they can be.

•Begin a feasibility study regarding the renovation of the club’s Trower Center headquarters or building a new one and also looking at developing a capital campaign to fund either.

“It’s old, it has architectural issues,” he said, citing floor and roof issues. The board is now working with the city on the matter. Within the next three to five years, he said, there will be movement toward a build or a rehabilitation.

Esparza thanked attendees for their support and emphasized the need for continued involvement.

“You’re all here for similar reasons,” he said. “We understand the importance of our youth.”

Anna Eaton, the club’s executive director, talked about improvements regarding providing youth with the “optimal club experience.”

Courtesy Photo — Anna Eaton Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, poses with Anna Eaton of Vacaville, the 2017 Woman of the Year for his district.
Courtesy Photo — Anna Eaton Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, poses with Anna Eaton of Vacaville, the 2017 Woman of the Year for his district.
Courtesy Photo — Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s Office Anna Eaton, middle, is recognized by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, second from left, as his district’s Woman of the Year for 2017.Courtesy Photo — Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s Office Anna Eaton, middle, is recognized by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, second from left, as his district’s Woman of the Year for 2017.

She’s a wife, mom, children’s advocate and head of a nonprofit.

And for 2017, Anna Eaton, executive director of the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, is also the 2017 Woman of the Year for Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s district.

The announcement came Monday as Eaton was recognized on the Assembly Floor with her family in attendance.

“Anna is an extraordinary woman and a gem in our community,” said Frazier in a press statement. “Her love and commitment to mentoring children and helping secure opportunities for our youth to participate in special, extracurricular programs is making such a positive impact on their lives. It is with great pleasure that we honor Anna today as the 11th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year.”

Eaton was honored in Sacramento along with women from across the state during ceremonies sponsored by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

“I’m amazed by the honor just because I know how many other women are out there in the community doing great things,” said Eaton. “There are so many remarkable women out there doing admirable work for their community. Helping these children have all the tools needed to flourish and succeed is my life calling. I am proud to take this recognition back to my team.”

She emphasized that she doesn’t make things happen by herself — everything is a team effort where one person’s success is everyone’s.

“This honor’s for me and the board and the staff and the kids and the volunteers,” she advised.

To that end, she highlighted that, in a few short years under her direction, the Boys & Girls Club expanded from one site to four, the budget has doubled, membership bloomed from 250 to 400-plus and community partnerships have increased.

Eaton was also awarded a scholarship to attend the Stanford School of Leadership and Global Institute for Leadership to drive club organization capacity

More importantly, the youths are flourishing.

“The kids who were in the club when I got here are all graduating,” she said.

As well, students reportedly are earning mostly A’s & B’s on report cards, expect to attend college, don’t engage in fights at school or skip school and are learning to become leaders and participate in volunteerism.

Eaton was born in Vietnam and came with her family to America to escape the war.

She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Literature from Liberty University as an Army wife. She and her husband, Austin, and their four children now call Vacaville home.

She formerly served on the California Parks and Recreation Board for District 1 and strengthened her youth development training while employed with the City of Fairfield. She founded Starbound Theatre in 2003, a program focused on serving at-risk youth through the performing arts. The program now serves Fairfield, Vacaville, American Canyon and Dixon.

She has served on a Vacaville Unified School District think tank committee that formed recommendations for a social-emotional curriculum. As a member of the Vacaville Rotary Club, she has served as an advisor for the Will C Wood Interact Club, helping to mentor a collaboration that resulted in two summits for teens.

Eaton subscribes to the idea that the mentorship and support we provide to children significantly influences the trajectory of their lives.

Eaton joins a growing list of Assembly District 11 women honored by Frazier, including Gloria Martin, Lisa Rico, Lillian Pierce and Jeanne McCormack.

A reception honoring Eaton will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at Stars Recreation Center, 155 Browns Valley Parkway in Vacaville.

To RSVP, call Frazier’s District Office in Fairfield at 399-3011.

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