South Haven's Boys and Girls Club awarded its Youth of the Year title to Vincente Benavidez. Benavidez, currently a junior at Portage High School, is the epitome of a well-rounded student. He manages to stay involved in several clubs and organizations, specifically sports. He enjoys football, soccer, and ultimate frisbee. But don't let his athletic interests fool you! He enjoys singing and dancing, and he even auditioned for Portage High School's Annual Talent Show.
Benavidez understands the feeling of being the "new kid" all too well. His family is originally from Perrysburg, Ohio, but moved to South Haven in 2010. He and his two sisters, ages 8 and 14, were immersed in a completely new environment and had to make new friends. However, the South Haven Boys & Girls Club made this a lot easier. He had originally learned about the club from friends at school. He thought that joining the club would be a good idea since he was new to the area. Now Benavidez takes it upon himself to welcome new clubbers with open arms and attends the club on a daily basis.
"It is awesome interacting with new clubbers! It reminded me of myself. It is scary when you do not know anybody. So it's cool to welcome new people and to encourage them to continue to come to this radical place and to get plugged in," Benavidez said.
His initial interest ended up becoming a long time commitment. Benavidez created an anti-bullying group called Love, Hope, and Trust. The objective of the program is to assist teenagers and children who have been subjected to the evils of bullying. Benavidez hopes to help those who have been hurt forgive and forget about the past and strive for a positive future.
Benavidz says that he has been able to use his personal experiences to help others in the club.
"In my opinion, I believe that no one should be bullied because of the severe damage that it can cause to a person mentally, physically and socially, said Benavidz. "That topic has been discussed through my club to ensure that our members go home feeling empowered to live out their dreams and personal goals."
His involvement doesn't stop there. Benavidez is also an officer of South Haven's Keystone Club, a teen leadership program that inspires young leaders to become active in the community and through the club. Keystone continuously fundraises for important causes and local projects, such as raising money for homeless shelters and garnering donations for those less fortunate. They have also served countless hours cleaning up the community, helping the South Haven's Parks Department, and collaborating with South Haven's Lion Club.
"To be honest, being a part of the Keystone Club has truly opened my eyes to see the great need in my club and community. It has humbled me and has given me more understanding and compassion for those in reach," said Benavidz.
Benavidez hopes to become a employee of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. He would also like to coach and help in any way, shape, or form needed. He wants his opportunity to give back to the club, and hopes to create a positive environment so that others can have the same experience he was given.
"If I could tell younger clubbers one thing, I would just simple say...never give up on your dreams, said Benavidz. "Develop who you are, so that you can strive for your destiny. I have realized that life is not going to be easy, but someone once told me 'Success is not a goal, but a byproduct of hard work'".
It is clear that Benavidez is extremely deserving of the Youth of the Year title. His courage to speak up for others facing challenges is truly admirable. Benavidez serves as a positive role model for those around him and is doing more than his fair share to make our community a better place.
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Valparaiso, IN 46383
Tel: (219) 464-7282
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