Marena S., 17, was named Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale 2018 Youth of the Year at the organization’s signature fundraiser in February.
Called Celebrate Youth at Blue Door Ball, the gala was presented by sponsors Tiffany & Bosco, P.A., Great American Title Agency, Inc., and Meritage Homes.
Marena thanked all of the other finalists and her Thunderbirds Club staff upon receiving the award.
“I want to thank my family for signing me up for the Boys & Girls Clubs when I was 8-years-old,” Marena said at the event.
The formal gala includes silent and live auctions, raffles and dinner. The main focus of the evening, though, was on the eight teen BGCS Youth of the Year finalists who presented their personal stories exemplifying the transformative effect the Clubs have on children’s lives.
More than 700 were in attendance including notable guests, Bob and Renee Parsons, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, and Arizona Coyotes All-Star Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
As part of the honor of being a Youth of the Year, Voya Financial provided educational scholarships for each finalist and also awarded the 2018 Youth of the Year scholarship, according to a press release.
Bob and Renee Parsons surprised all finalists with additional educational scholarships from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.
“The announcement of the additional scholarships from the Parsons was the cherry-on-top of a perfect evening,” Dr. Lisa Hurst, BGCS President & CEO, said in a prepared statement. “These scholarships are absolutely life changing for our kids.”
On an average day at the club, you can find Marena with a string of younger children following close behind her as she leads them through various activities.
Marena is very involved in theatre programs at the club and Chaparral High School, the press release stated.
She talks about the need for creative arts to be more prevalent in schools. Marena will go onto college in the fall, studying political science.
“If I hadn’t had the club, the 8-year-old me would not have turned into the passionate, confident leader I am today. I will always carry with me everything the club has taught me, which means I will always be a club kid at heart,” said Marena in a prepared statement.
She began attending the Thunderbirds Branch 10 years ago and speaks of the security and stability she found there that helped her through major transitions in her life.
“Marena is a prime example of the work that Boys & Girls Clubs does, and the kinds of kids who walk out of our doors,” said Dr. Hurst in the statement.
“Knowing Marena is an honor. Watching her and the other candidates present their stories with such poise and bravery filled me to the brim with joy. We are so grateful having witnessed the community support for our kids tonight.”
On March 26, Marena will represent Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale at the state competition. The Arizona State Youth of the Year will go on to the regional competition, with the potential to compete nationally.