Clovis West student named Fresno County’s Youth of the Year

Erika Smith overcame hurdles in life and became a finalist in the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year campaign. PHOTO COURTESY OF CLOVIS WEST HIGH SCHOOL/FACEBOOK

Clovis West student Erika Smith has been named Fresno County’s 2019 Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year. Smith earned over $3000 in scholarships in addition to taking home the title and being nominated for the Northern California Competition.

The competition brings together young people who have exemplified in leadership in their community.

Thousands of teens participate in local, state and regional Youth of the Year events, with finalists advancing to Washington, D.C., for the National Youth of the Year Gala and Celebration Dinner.

Smith is representing her club, Pinedale Boys & Girls Club.

“My next step is representing my club at state regionals in March, competing with more teens to see who will go to nationals,” Smith said. “ I am proud to be taking the next step, especially with all the support I am receiving.”

Smith said it takes a lot of strength, courage and hard work to compete for the Youth of the Year campaign.

“You have to be able to stand up for yourself, be open minded and be able to self-disclose,” she said.

For Smith, it was difficult to relive memories that she wanted to forget, but still felt good to express herself.

“It was good to get everything off my chest and relieve some of the stress and anger I had building up for a while,” Smith said.

Growing up, Smith didn’t feel like she had the supported she needed. At times Smith found herself in conflict with her aunt, who is also her guardian.

“I always felt alone or unwanted and it’s a horrible feeling, I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody,” Smith said.

When Smith became a finalist in the Youth of the Year campaign, she felt an overwhelming reaction from everywhere.

“My family and friends cried, my counselors and mentors were just overcome with happiness, especially the ones who have been with me since elementary,” Smith said.

But the reaction she appreciated the most was from her aunt.

“As soon as I walked inside she jumped up, wrapped her arms around me and cried, she congratulated me, told me she was proud, especially since my report card came in that day and showed I had straight A’s,” Smith said. “I know for her it may seem like I don’t care, but I care deeply and I’m grateful for everything she has done for me and provided me with.”

Smith said the key to success is resilience, endurance and knowing how to lose as much as knowing how to win.

“I’ve experienced many losses,” Smith said. “I’ve lost loved ones, fun memories, everything at one point, but I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I worked harder so I can make my family proud.”

Smith’s goal for the future is to be a motivational speaker.

“I feel, as a motivational speaker, I would be able to share my experiences with everybody, but also will be able to share the message that nobody is ever truly alone,” Smith said. “We all have our own troubles, but we can get through them.”

Smith said she is especially working to inspire her nieces and nephews.

“They inspire me to be a better person than I was yesterday,” she said. “I want them to be able to look up to me and think, anything’s possible. You can make it through my situation. I will be the first out of my family to graduate high school and I’m going to make sure they’re the next.”

Smith said the key to success is resilience, endurance and knowing how to lose as much as knowing how to win.

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