Fifth-grader chosen as Boys and Girls Club’s Youth of the Year

........................................................................................................................................................................................

When Luke Padilla isn’t in school, wrestling or playing baseball and basketball, he’s busy having fun and learning how to become a responsible citizen and a leader in the Boys and Girls Club of Valencia County.

The 10-year-old Central Elementary School fifth-grader, who has been a member of the after-school program for the past three years, was named this year’s Boys and Girls Club of Valencia County’s Youth of the Year.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: Luke Padilla, a fifth-grader at Central Elementary School, was named this year’s Boys and Girls Club of Valencia County’s Youth of the Year.

Irene Lucero-Lovato, the program’s director and site director at H.T. Jaramillo Community School, said Padilla was chosen as the Youth of the Year after writing an essay about what Boys and Girls Club means to him.

“I wrote about having good character and to be a good student and to help people,” Padilla said of Boys and Girls Club. “It also means helping kids do their homework.”

Padilla said he’s learned a lot while in the program, including the virtues of Character Counts, the dangers of tobacco use and enjoys all the activities the program offers, such as sports and games.

Even though he has dreams of becoming either a professional football player for the New England Patriots or basketball player when he grows up, his favorite subject in school is math — “because it’s easy,” he says. And if his goals of becoming a professional athlete don’t pan out, he said he’d settle for being the mayor of Belen when he gets older.

Padilla encourages other youngsters to become involved Boys and Girls Club of Valencia County because of what the organization has done for him.

“Boys and Girls Club helps kids have a good attitude and have good behavior,” he said. “I get exercise and it’s a safe place.”

Padilla was one of several Boys and Girls Club members throughout New Mexico, who competed for the state Junior Youth of the Year award. He and Lucero-Lovato went to the state’s conference in Ruidoso in February, where he competed for the award. Even though he lost, he said it wouldn’t distract him from entering again.

“It was exciting because it was fun and they made me feel special,” Padilla said of his time in Ruidoso. “I even got to meet the mayor. I’ll apply next year and maybe I’ll win.”


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.