By Jennifer L. Warren
NEW WINDSOR – One year has changed everything for Gema Vidals Herrera….and it all started with her making the decision to join the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh.
Thursday, that life-altering new path resulted in her selection as the 2019 Youth of the Year for the organization. It’s a feat that now opens an assortment of doors and possibilities for the Newburgh Free Academy, North Campus Senior, who is headed to Mount Saint Mary College in the fall to pursue her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse. Just a year ago that vision seemed like a bleak possibility, as needed funds were not available; however, after she joined the Boys and Girls Club, the magic began. The hard-working, altruistic-minded, and caring Vidals Herrera made such an impression on the organization, they offered her a $24,000 scholarship.
“Her story is exactly what this organization (The Boys and Girls Club) is all about,” said an elated Pastor Jose Vasquez, as he congratulated the senior Thursday night at a reception at Anthony’s Pier 9, honoring all of the Newburgh Youth of the Year candidates. “She always had the desire to go to college, and now she has the means to get there.”
Vidals Herrera will now move on through the National Youth of the Year process in the Regional Competition, allowing her to further develop pivotal leadership, speaking, confidence-boosting, and an assortment of other skills critical to succeed and inspire others. It’s a dream come true, for Vidals Herera who learned about the Boys and Girls Club through her brother Steven Gonzalez, one of the Junior Youth of the Year candidates.
“Coming from an immigrant family, there has always been a great stress on education, and I have always given my best to each task,” said Vidals Herrera” “The Boys and Girls Club has been wonderful; it has taught me to broaden my perspective as well as given me more freedom through travel, such as college tours to different states and meeting new people.
Since 1947, The Annual Youth of the Year Program has been developing leaders, while preparing them to live and contribute to a changing, global and integrated world. Focusing on communication, goal setting and teamwork, the very principles the Boys and Girls Clubs stress to all members. Nina Zylberberg is another shining example of their profound effect.
One of the four candidates for this year’s Youth of the Year, Zylberberg, a senior at Newburgh Free Academy’s North Campus, has been a Boys and Girls member since age 5. Trying out for a commercial at age 4, Zylberberg was told she was too shy and urged to enroll in acting and dancing classes, connecting her to the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy. This involvement naturally evolved into her Boys and Girls Club membership. The positive effects were immediate.
“It boosted my self-confidence, and I’m now a completely different person than I was without dancing, said Zylberberg, who earned runner-up honors for Youth of the Year Thursday night. “The Club has just helped me incredibly as a person, and I’m so grateful for everything.”
Also competing for 2019 Youth of the Year were Newburgh Free Academy, Main Campus juniors: Joy-Ann Stewart and Jaslyn Martinez. Meanwhile, in the Junior Youth of the Year competition, Ashley Martinez was announced as the winner, while Ashley Adjoh Akakpo was named runner-up. Rounding out this category were; Steven Gonzalez, Hunter Jenkins and Josephine Morales.
Excited to take on her responsibilities as the 2019 Youth of the Year for the Newburgh organization, Vidals Herrera continues to look toward growth and limitless possibilities.
“I want to give back as much as I can,” said Vidals-Herrera. “Hopefully, I can meet the expectations of everyone and be a better person in the future.”