Kings Beach girl is face of state’s Boys and Girls Clubs |

Kings Beach girl is face of state’s Boys and Girls Clubs

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe High School junior Jasmine Marquez was named 2008 California State Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Club of America.

As it does for the lives of countless children, the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe changed Jasmine Marquez’s life.

Marquez said she remembers that “sunny, hot morning” when her mom dropped her off at the club for the first time. She was nine years old, quiet and shy.

But you would never guess that of the bright-eyed and confident 16-year-old. She looks you straight in the eye when she talks and her contagious smile oozes with personality.

“This is the foundation of your community,” Marquez said of the Boys and Girls Club in Kings Beach, her second-home for the past seven years. “This is where you mold your child. This is the perfect place for kids. It truly is. And without the club, I don’t know where I would be.”

Marquez was named Youth of the Year last month for the Boys and Girls Clubs of California ” the highest honor a club member can receive in the state.

There are more than 500,000 kids in 200 clubs statewide, said Executive Director Isabelle Rodriguez Wilson of the North Lake Tahoe club.

“And the Youth of the Year sits right here in Kings Beach,” Wilson said, noting that Marquez’s application was one out of 150 submitted this year in California.

The Youth of the Year award recognizes members that are of good standing in the club, have achieved academically and are involved in the community.

The program was founded 61 years ago by the Reader’s Digest Foundation, according to the club. Participants are chosen on local, state and regional levels, progressively, before competing at the national arena. The National Youth of the Year will not only become the face of the Boys and Girls Club of America for that year, but will also receive a substantial scholarship and meet the President of the United States.

After submitting her application earlier this year ” complete with essays and letters of recommendation from club staff, teachers and community members ” Marquez was named one of the top-three candidates in the Northern California regional competition.

“I was not expecting it at all,” she said.

From there, Marquez went to Sacramento for the statewide competition where she faced five other remarkable applicants.

“I said, ‘I’m going to give it my all, and whatever happens, happens,'” Marquez said.

She gave her three-minute speech before the audience and then met one-on-one with the state competition’s three judges, representatives from the state Department of Drugs and Alcohol, the Department of Eduction and Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi’s wife, Patti Garamendi.

The interviews give the judges a chance to assess the candidate’s full character, Wilson said. And that’s where Marquez shined.

“They can see if you can handle yourself in public,” Wilson said. “All of these things that we attempt to do here at the club; to get you comfortable in your own skin.”

Next, Marquez will represent California in the Pacific States competition in July where she will compete against club members from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico.

When asked how she felt about the competition, Marquez said she was nervous.

“But that only makes me want to thrive more,” she said.

Marquez was born in Truckee, but she said her parents were two hardworking immigrants from Mexico. After she was born, her parents had to leave her in the care of her grandmother and return to Mexico because circumstances were difficult in the States. Her parents have since returned successfully and now own a house in Kings Beach and a restaurant, Sancho’s, in Tahoe Vista.

But growing up in an American world with a Mexican background, Marquez said she was confused about her identity for a long time ” until she started going to the Boys and Girls Club were she was given the tools and the freedom to be herself.

“Thanks to the club, I have realized that I am a mixture of many cultures and traditions,” she said in a speech before the North Tahoe Public Utility District’s board of directors last week.

Marquez has also spoken before the Rotary Clubs in Tahoe City and Incline Village, the Kiwanis Club of North Lake Tahoe and the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe.

It wasn’t long before the club became Marquez’ home away from home. She ate there, did her homework there and played there.

“Just giving you that little push of confidence, helping you or showing you the way,” Marquez said about how the club molded her into the person she is today.

Princess Jasmine, as club staff affectionately calls her, now works for the club in their kindergarten department. The North Tahoe High School junior has also volunteered for the club’s homework group and is the president of their Keystone Club, a leadership group.

“She’s just fun to be around,” said club Program Director Mindy Carbajal. “She’s got a lot of personality. She’s herself. She’s just cool.”

Marquez is a testament to the Boys and Girls Club’s central mission ” promoting growth and development of its members into responsible and outstanding citizens, Wilson said.

“She’s one of many that the community supports” at the club, Wilson said.

As for Marquez, she just wants to show how thankful she is to the club.

“After all of the things the club has done for me, it makes me want to give back,” she said.

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