Approximately 200 community leaders, local government officials, school district representatives, donors and volunteers attended the ' annual breakfast Wednesday. This year’s campaign, dubbed “Champions for Youth,” was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Agoura Hills. The event honored two members with a Youth of the Year award.
Honorees Sarah Brecht, 14, and Joshua Conner, 12, were praised by Ventura County sheriff Geoff Dean, who served as master of ceremonies. “Many of us would not even qualify for this award,” Dean said, citing moral fiber, public speaking, academic performance and community work as some of the criteria
Brecht, Youth of the Winner awardee in the 14 and up division, spoke about the life skills she has acquired in her three-year stint at the Boys & Girls Club at Sequoia Middle School. “I learned how to step out of my shell and be more giving to people in need,” she said.
The teenager has undertaken service projects such as the Cystic Fibrosis walk and the Many Empty Closets, where she mobilized friends and family members into donating much-needed items such as food, clothing and toiletry items. The collected items were then delivered to the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
Both Brecht’s parents work full-time, but she said she always felt safe at the club, she said. And in Lisa Barron, the Sequoia branch director, she found a second mother. It was Barron who initially nominated Brecht for Youth of the Month when she was still in eighth grade, Brecht said.
Brecht ended her speech on a thought-provoking note. “A building does not make a club,” said the high school freshman who still volunteers at the club whenever she can.
Conner, the awardee in the 13 and under division, echoed most of Brecht’s sentiments, saying the club at Los Cerritos Middle School was a safe haven for him. “It had plenty of good people and academic resources,” said the seventh-grader.
“I discovered independence, and I learned about making good choices,” he said Conner helps out at Many Mansions, a Thousand Oaks-based non-profit organization that provides housing for low-income people.
Other highlights of the morning included an update from Mark Elswick, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Conejo and Las Virgenes. Elswick described the steady progress of the club over the past year–a 40 percent growth in youth members and a 50 percent growth in summer camp registration at the second largest site, which is Club Chaparral at Chaparral Elementary School in Calabasas.
According to Elswick, 2,400 children now attend their five clubs. He also gave an update of the construction at Sequoia Middle School in Newbury Park, stating that the $2.2 million expansion project, in partnership with the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), is on time and should be completed by August.
Guest speaker Heide Banks, a best-selling author and TV personality, spoke about the importance of building relationships. Hillary Turks, a volunteer, gave her own rendition of the song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
, who sits on the club’s Board of Governors and is an Agoura Hills City Councelmember, hailed the event a success. “It’s an impressive showcase of the Boys and Girls Clubs, so we can reach out and make people aware of what we do,” he said.