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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.
“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.

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