VISTA — The Boys & Girls Club of Vista recently appointed Julie Martinez as its 2018 Youth of the Year. While representing the Vista club, Martinez will be vying for top recognition during the Youth of the Year competition along with other Boys & Girls Clubs in the county next month to represent the entire San Diego County.
According to the Matt Koumaras, chief executive officer of The Boys & Girls Club of Vista, Martinez was selected from more than 1,400 club members.
“It was because of her efforts here at the club, helping out as a junior staff person, helping kids with homework, overcoming a lot of obstacles in her life and being a great role model for our younger kids that she was chosen,” Koumaras said.
Martinez, 17, is a senior at Rancho Buena Vista High School. In her freshman year, she clocked in some community hours. However, after she earned those community hours, she returned to the Vista club as a volunteer.
Martinez volunteers at the Vista club daily during the summer months and visits three times a week during the school year.
“A lot of kids will come in, they’ll do their community hours for high school, and then they’re gone. But Julie embraced herself as part of our family and kept coming back,” Koumaras said. “The front desk staff made her feel like part of the team. Julie started helping them out, started playing with the kids and helped the kids who were scared if it was their first day at the club.”
Martinez wants people to know the Vista club is like family — it’s a place of comfort and happiness for her.
“They all support you and love you — it’s just that bond and that’s why I love coming here,” she said.
Even with challenges in her life, including injuries she sustained in a car accident and the death of family member, she found a sense of refuge at the Vista club.
“I could just forget about things and always focus on the kids and help them out,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about any outside problems like school, family, and life.”
Koumaras went on to say that Martinez always returned to the Vista club with a smile on her face, no matter what was going on her life.
“That’s why the staff selected her,” he said.
Koumaras added, “Julie was dealing with challenges at home, and she found a great support group of people here — Julie is very active in her school, and between the school and the club, it really helped her get through those things. Now, she’s looking to help other kids that are in a similar position.”
Martinez is quick to point out that after achieving those community hours in her freshman year, she came back to the Vista club because she felt it was a great program that could be a springboard of opportunity to help the youth and quite possibly her future career with children.
“I want to be a medical assistant and keep on going with my education and become a radiologist for kids,” Martinez said.
Being honored with Youth of the Year gives Martinez to give back even more. It’s an extension of her personal mission.
“I hope to show kids that they should never to give up — even if life puts you down, you should never stop,” Martinez said. “Continue even if it’s hard because at the end of the day it’s going to be worth it.”