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For the second time in his seven years with the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, Sergio Maciel was selected as the club’s Youth of the Year.

Maciel, a senior at Will C. Wood High School, previously held the title when it was first held in 2017.

He was selected among four other peers for the honor during a ceremony Thursday evening at the Opera House and will once again serve as an ambassador for the club and a voice for the youth of the community.

However, Teen Supervisor John Gilmore reminded the audience that the path to the title is not an easy one. The applicants had to write three essays, fill out an application, receive three letters of recommendation and get interviewed by a panel. Afterward, the five finalists had to deliver speeches to the audience at the Opera House — which included an assortment of judges who then selected a winner.

In his speech, Maciel highlighted how much the club has been a journey of personal growth for him.

“In many ways, the club engineered me into who I am today: an ambitious young man who holds a 4.0 GPA who leads in character and serves his community before himself,” he said.

Before joining the club, Maciel said he “didn’t have the guts” to take on any leadership roles because he feared the risk of failure.

“What changed my mindset and what had helped me become a leader was inspiration I received between our club doors,” he said. “Staff and community leaders, like you all, have shared your meaningful stories with us, emphasizing that failure played a major role in their lives and how that failure had helped them get to where they stand today.”

Maciel added that staff was eager to share the chestnut “If you lead with your heart, the chances for failure are outweighed by chances for success.”

Maciel took this advice to heart. He is currently the vice president of Will C. Wood’s Interact Club and is involved with the school’s Link Crew program which helps freshmen feel comfortable in their first year of high school. He also serves as a student representative for Will C. Wood and the Boys & Girls Club for City Hall’s monthly roundtable meetings.

“Today, I consider leadership to be my strongest characteristic because of the club,” he said. “I often tell others that a true leader shouldn’t feel the need to create followers, rather to inspire because leaders lead, succeed and inspire.”

Personal growth was a theme throughout the other four finalists’ speeches. Kayla Pope, a junior at Vanden High School, talked about how she wanted to be a nurse ever since taking care of her grandfather when he was sick and how the club’s staff had helped her try to reach that goal.

Arturo Rodriguez, a senior at Vacaville High School, eschewed standing behind a lectern and instead stood center stage as he talked about how the club helped him become unafraid of public speaking and helped him develop interests like cards, magic and carpentry.

Diana Luu, a freshman at Will C. Wood, talked about how assisting the club with movie nights and the annual Christmas toy drive helped her develop personally. She also said her primary goal was to inform youth about the impacts of mental illnesses.

Christian Sanabria, a senior at Vaca High, talked about his difficulties of growing up and getting made fun of at school but how the Boys & Girls Club staff believed in him and gave him confidence.

The previous year’s honoree, Addison Barbara, also delivered a speech where he talked about how he enjoyed public speaking before being named the 2018 Youth of the Year but felt he only started doing real public speaking engagements once a month after he was named.

“Youth of the Year is not just a title,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to have new experiences, to meet new people you may have never met before and train important skills such as leadership, cooperation and teamwork,” he said.

Upon being named the 2019 Youth of the Year, Maciel thanked his family for always encouraging him to go the extra mile.

“When I tell them that I want to be the mayor of Vacaville, they tell me that I will be the president of the United States,” he said.

Maciel will represent the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club when he competes in the regional competition in San Francisco in early March. The national winner will be announced in Washington, D.C. in September.

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