Ariz. 'youth of year' nominee learns what it means to be a leader - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Ariz. 'youth of year' nominee learns what it means to be a leader

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms. Contact her at mreese@evtrib.com

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:59 am | Updated: 10:48 am, Tue Jun 5, 2012.

Three years ago, Adrianna Henderson’s mom, Pamela, brought her daughter down to the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley’s Thunderbirds Branch in Guadalupe to participate in its teen program.

At 15, it was either spend another summer by the pool and in the malls, Adrianna recalls, or get involved in something.

And involved she became.

The club’s branch executive, Tyler Vasquez, recruited Adrianna for its leader-in-training program. She started spending hours at the club, helping out with the younger kids, becoming a junior lifeguard, and learning bout career readiness and training. She influenced other teens to participate more, helped operate the club’s fitness center, and began helping younger members with their homework.

Today, Adrianna, 18, is a junior staff member. With her attitude and dedication, she’s also up for Arizona’s Youth of the Year, an honor given to a member of one of the state’s many Boys and Girls Club branches. She won that opportunity when she was named East Valley Youth of the Year in February.

“One thing I love about Adrianna as a youth leader is that she tells how anyone can come to the club. She talked about how she loves the diversity of the club. We have kids from Maricopa, Queen Creek, Ahwatukee (Foothills), Guadalupe. We’re a big commuter club. Oftentimes when people ask her, ‘Isn’t that for the poor kids or the bad kids,’ that’s where Adrianna pushes her message … ‘It’s for every kid,” Vasquez said. “That’s something she’s been a big proponent of and really highlights in her speech and message to other members.”

In a typical day, the senior at Ahwatukee Foothills’ Horizon Honors High School can be found at the club for hours into the evening.

“After school I come and do my junior staff rounds, 2:30 to 6:30, helping kids,” she said. “And; after work, I go into the teen center, play Kinect or talk with teens and hang out on the computers and go into the gym,” she said.

The daughter of baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson can’t speak enough about the club and the impact it’s had on her life.

“When I walked in, I was my normal self and did what a normal teen would do – activities, play around with the kids,” she said. But she also learned more about herself.

“I always thought I was a leader, but when I walked in here I understood what the meaning of a leader was,” she said.

Cindy Zak, director of operations for the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley, described Adrianna: “There were a lot of kids who don’t know Rickey Henderson is. She was just known as Adrianna who helped them with their homework, and Adrianna who remembered their name. She treated them all fairly. It didn’t matter who her parents were. They didn’t care. She was seen as another kid, but this one took care of them and was fun to be around.”

“Kids who were kind of quiet and to themselves, we started seeing them come out and do these activities. She was a magnet. Not only is she a pretty girl, but she has an outstanding attitude and personality that draws people to her,” Zak continued.

Adrianna said she shares everything with her mom, and is thankful for the fact that she brought her to the club.

That closeness may be one reason she plans to attend ASU – with it being close to their Ahwatukee Foothills home. She hopes to follow in her cousin’s path to become a physical therapist.

The 2012 Youth of the Year Legislative Breakfast will be held April 17 at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

For more information about the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley, see clubzona.org.

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