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Teen credits Boys & Girls for positive changes
pic bg boy and girl
Maliah Wilson and Miguel Lopez were named Girl and Boy Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manteca on Thursday. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT/The Bulletin

Miguel Lopez is thankful for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manteca/Lathrop.

Not because he was announced as this year’s ‘Boys Youth of the Year’ at the Manteca site – yes, he was gracious about the honor as presented during the annual Youth of the Year event held Thursday at Chez Shari’s in the Manteca Park Golf Course – but rather for providing him that opportunity to make positive choices in his life.

Lopez, 18, was joined on this festive evening by his family and Dave Asuncion, his basketball coach at Manteca High.

He shared his frustration of his early years, in particular, growing up without a father and being constantly bullied. Lopez overcame those obstacles and proudly credited the Boys & Girls Clubs for “breaking the chain of (his) family’s reputation.”

He found an outlet in the club and on the hardwood, where he continues to hone his skills in basketball. Earlier, Lopez was named ‘Athlete of the Year.’

Along with ‘Youth of the Year,’ he was nominated for the upcoming regional award in San Francisco. His brother, Francisco Lopez, who was also a finalist for the boys’ top award – Emmanuel Torres, who was named the ‘Dreamers Keystone Club Leader of the Year,’ was the other finalist – earned ‘Teen Center Member of the Year.’

Maliah Watson, 16, who is a junior at East Union High, was honored as ‘Girls Youth of the Year.’ Frankie Selena Lopez and Trayana Davis were among the finalists.

“The club is definitely my escape to a positive place,” said Watson, who was a past ‘Youth of the Year.’

Alana Turner, who is a site director, and assistant director Desiree Villamor announced the top honors in Lathrop.

“It was based on leadership in the club, how they helped others, and grades at school,” Turner said.

Carely Medina Cerda was named the Lathrop ‘Youth of the Year.’ Julissa Franco claimed the Junior Leadership Award.

Other award winners at the Lathrop site included Jordan Villamor (Athlete of the Year), Alexandra Medina Cerda (Student of the Year), Angel Mendoza (Kathy Aartman Artist of the Year), Jacob Dunn (Junior Social Recreation Member of the Year), and Jaelah Dunn (Martial Artist of the Year).

At the Manteca site, Melissa Quintana (Student of the Year), Breanna Folsom (Torch Club Leader of the Year), Trayana Davis (Junior Staff Member of the Year), Gustavo Espinoza (Junior Social Recreation Member of the Year), Madison Willox (Martial Artist of the Year), Jimmy Maldonado (Ag In Motion Member of the Year), Dream Diaz (Performing Artist of the Year), and Elliana Jasso (The Kathy Aartman Artist of Year) were the other award winners.

Mark McCool, director of operations, noted that Youth of the Year began in 1989 with James Smith as the first-ever winner.