Tisha Bhatnagar named BGCGS 2019 Youth of the Year

Tisha Bhatnagar has been named Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale 2019 Youth of the Year. (Submitted photo)

Tisha Bhatnagar, 17-year-old member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s Sal Cosenza Teen Center at the Virginia G. Piper Branch was named the organization’s 2019 Youth of the Year.

The announcement was made March 1 at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale’s annual signature fundraiser, Celebrate Youth at Blue Door Ball presented by Tiffany & Bosco and Great American Title.

The gala, held at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, raised $1 million to fund club programming through ticket and table sales, event sponsorships, paddle-raisers, and live and silent auctions, according to a press release.

Bob and Renee Parsons, through The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, donated more than $300,000 in the paddle raise and live auction.

Their generosity helped the clubs reach the million-dollar mark for the first time in the history of this event, the press release stated.

Youth of the Year candidates. (Submitted photo)

The event also highlights the impact of the clubs on local youth with each of the eight Youth of the Year teen finalists presenting their personal stories of growth, resiliency and achievement.

“This organization changes the lives of young people one day at a time,” Robyn Julien, BGCS president and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “If our more than 650 guests didn’t know that upon walking into the gala, they definitely knew it upon leaving Friday night after hearing our amazing teens tell their stories.”

Joining Miss Bhatnagar in the Youth of the Year competition was Michael Brayer, age 17, from the Vestar Branch; Alexandra Gutierrez, age 16, from the Scottsdale Charros Branch; Caleb Jimenez, age 18, from the Red Mountain Branch; Tara Malakian, age 17, from the Thunderbirds Branch; Jake Mitchell, age 17, from the Mary Ellen & Robert McKee Branch; Elyssa Velarde, age 17, from the Lehi Branch; and Jessica Vera, age 17, from the Hartley & Ruth Barker Branch.

“On full display at Celebrate Youth at Blue Door Ball is the true magic of the clubs — while everyone has their own challenges and burdens, some that may be visible and some that aren’t, what our programming and youth development professionals inspire in our kids is that you don’t have to be defined by what life throws at you,” said Ms. Julien. “By setting goals, working hard and having the support system and mentorships our clubs provide, they decide what their life will be.”

Youth of the Year is a national Boys & Girls Clubs of America program promoting leadership, exceptional academic performance and community service. This annual competition begins in September with more than 30 BGCS teens vying for the clubs’ highest honor and $12,000 in scholarship awards provided by Voya Financial.

In the months leading up to the final competition, candidates prepare by writing multiple essays and participating in two rounds of one-on-one and panel interviews with local community leaders.

Each teen also practices and hones their presentations of club experiences and personal growth and transformation.

“All of the candidates are a wonderful representation of the light that the clubs provide, and all of the candidates were worthy of becoming the 2019 Youth of the Year,” said Sara Donaldson, VP Investment Stewardship at Voya Investment Management and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale Board Member, who served as lead judge for this year’s Youth of the Year competition.

“The final decision was extremely difficult, but in the end, we felt that Tisha was the best representative of that light.”

The 2019 Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale Youth of the Year will go on to compete at the state level on March 26, with the potential to move onto regional and national competitions.

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