EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 10, 2013

Four finalists vie for Salem's Youth of the Year

Four candidates up for top award at Boys & Girls Club

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — For years, they have helped out at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem, assisting younger children and making a difference in their own way.

But now, Kristen Foster, Cecilia Souza, Alyssa St. Cyr and Max Wildfeuer will finally be recognized for their hard work Tuesday night. One lucky teen will be honored as the club’s Youth of the Year.

All four teens have been members of the club for several years. Helping young children at the club has prompted the three girls to decide to become teachers. Wildfeuer wants to run his own business, preferably a restaurant.

Each teen has helped out at the club in numerous ways, making it a tough decision for the five judges, according to club president Patrick Donovan. The local attorney won the award himself as a 17-year-old in 1982.

The teens have helped in the community as well, Donovan said. But their work didn’t stop there.

Once they were nominated as finalists, the teens had to complete a resume, write essays and be interviewed by the judges, Donovan said.

“We had four fantastic finalists,” he said. “All of our candidates are exceptional leaders in the club. I can’t say enough about them.”

And these modest teens aren’t the type to brag about their accomplishments.

They were a little surprised to learn they had been nominated for the club’s most prestigious award for young people. Wildfeuer was nominated two years in a row.

“It was definitely a surprise,” said Souza, 14, an-eighth-grader at Woodbury School. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

She’s the youngest of the group, but has been going to the club for 11 years. The other three attend Salem High School.

Success runs in the Souza family. Her sister, Celeste, was a finalist for the award a couple of years ago.

Souza is president of the Torch Club and a member of the swim team. She enjoys volunteering in the art room, helping young children with their projects.

Souza also volunteers with Special Olympics and hopes to be a special needs teacher someday.

Foster is a 17-year-old junior who also enjoys helping children.

“By working here and working with the first- and second-graders, it really helped me decide I want to be a teacher,” said Foster, president of her Salem High class.

She’s also a member of the school’s Student Ccouncil and marching band.

“Being with the kids is my favorite thing here,” Foster said.

She is a little anxious about the Youth of the Year ceremony Tuesday. The event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the club’s Eclipse Teen Center.

“I’m excited, but I’m nervous,” she said.

Wildfeuer takes it all stride. The 16-year-old junior and varsity soccer player said he’s honored to be nominated two years in a row, but knows he faces stiff competition.

“I think all the other contestants are as equally qualified as I,” he said.

Wildfeuer has been coming to the club since first grade and has served as a junior counselor or counselor for five years. He knows the importance of serving as a role model to the club’s younger members.

“People need someone to look up to,” he said. “I think it’s important to set an example for others to follow. I like to set an example.”

St. Cyr, a 17-year-old senior, also likes to lead by example — and has learned by example as well..

“I want to be a teacher,” she said. “The people in my life who most inspired me were all of my teachers. I want to be able to teach life lessons to other kids.”

She has been involved in many of the club’s programs, including the Torch Club.

The four finalists were chosen from among the club’s Youth of the Month winners, Donovan said.

The Youth of the Year winner will participate in the state competition, with the chance of making it to the regional and national competitions.

The Salem winner receives a $1,000 scholarship donated by Steve and Diane Hatem, and gifts from several local businesses.