Precious Wilson, a 17-year-old Marcos De Niza senior who is active in music, ballet, cross-country and choir, was chosen as the East Valley Youth of the Yearat a banquet in Mesa earlier this month.
The award is given by the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley. It is the highest honor a member of the club can receive.
"Every year we honor teenagers we believe to be our pride and joy," said Ramon Elias, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley.
Precious, of Tempe, plays the violin and cello and is involved in church ministries, choir and cross-country. She also completed many hours of community service.
The 10-week training process for the award involves the candidates meeting every Monday to practice how to interview and give speeches.
"Basically, it taught me more about myself and how to be open," Precious said.
The process consisted of a speech, individual interviews with judges and a panel interview where the candidates sat in a group and answered questions from judges, Precious said.
Nine candidates from each of the branches of the organization in the East Valley were nominated for the award.
"The candidates talk about what the Boys and Girls Club means to them and the vigorous process it takes to get here," said Elias. "It's an unforgettable night for nine teenagers who have been members of our club since they were in grade school."
David Vu, youth development director of the Boys and Girls Clubs at the Tempe-Ladmo Branch, said that all of the candidates were given the same feedback and tips, but Precious took full advantage of her resources.
"She possesses a lot of skills that not very many teens her age possess," Vu said. "She took it above and beyond, she took the extra step."
Vu, who was the Youth of the Year in 2003, helped Precious with her speech.
"She took the time and patience to figure out what she needed to do," he said.
Precious, a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs for nine years, called the club a place of consistency in her life.
"I used to move around a lot," Precious said. "It was basically the only place that stayed in one spot."
Despite Precious' constant moving, the club allowed her to have the same experiences that most teens have in high school, Vu said.
"For her to go through all of that and still have a club to go to with the same friends and for the most part, the same staff, that was her high school experience," Vu said.
Precious was awarded a $20,000 educational fund from the Victoria Lund Foundation. She also received a computer, a $600 scholarship from Maricopa Community Colleges and a $1,000 scholarship from the Joe Henderson Memorial Fund.
After graduation, she plans to continue her love of the performing arts by attending the University of Texas with a double-major in business management and dance. She hopes to open a dance studio in the future.
Precious also said she plans to volunteer at Boys and Girls Clubs in Texas.
The State Youth of the Year Legislative Breakfast will be held April 21 in Phoenix where Precious will compete against other Boys and Girls Club members from Arizona.
If Precious wins at the state level, she could advance to Washington, D.C., in September to compete for Boys and Girls Club of America's National Youth of the Year title.
The recipient receives a $15,000 Reader's Digest scholarship, which is given by the president in an Oval Office ceremony.