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Boys & Girls honors 2013 youth of year
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Malia Watson was named the 2013 Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manteca on Thursday. Shes congratulated by the clubs executive director Mark McCool. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

For Malia Watson, the Boys and Girls Clubs has been her gateway to a bright future.

That future became even brighter Thursday when she chosen the 2013 Youth of the Year for the Manteca club.

Ditto that for Michael Valencia, who was selected Youth of the Year for the Lathrop club during the annual event celebration held at Chez Shari.

“Youth of the Year (award) is the grand prize,” said director Mark McCool. “This is the person who sets a positive example for the club.

“Just to be among the finalists is amazing, considering there’s 1,500 members.”

Watson was selected over Miguel Lopez and Emmanuel Torres.

“The Boys and Girls Club has been my gateway to many first-time experiences,” she said. “When I first came here it was like my first day of school.”

Earlier, Torres was named Athlete of the Year and Dreamers Keystone Club Leader of the Year for Manteca.

Valencia edged out Lissette Gomez for the Youth of the Year in Lathrop. “I’ll treasure this (award) indefinitely,” he said.

Lathrop director Aman Falol praised Valencia for his support during a time when he had to operate the club shorthanded.

“He really stepped up,” Falol said of Valencia.

Other awards at the Lathrop site included Edward Cuellar winning Athlete of the Year, Yolanda Ramirez claiming Student of the Year, Sandra Gomez receiving Torch Club Leader of the Year, and Alexis Zapien getting Martial Artist of the Year.

Carlos Ramirez was picked over Cuellar for the Sportsmanship honor. He also took home the Junior Social Recreation Member of the Year.

At the Manteca club, Angelina Martinez was recognized as Student of the Year, Kiana Watson earned Torch Club Leader of the Year, Ernesto Martinez claimed Junior Social Recreation Member of the Year, Daniel Cruz was awarded Martial Artist of the Year, Manuel Martinez received the Teen Center Member of the Year, Frankie Lopez garnered the Junior Staff Member of the Year, and Alyssa Lines took home the Kathy Aartman Artist of the Year.

Dreama Diaz nudged past Francisco Lopez and Gracie Ann Hayden for the Sportsmanship award.