Youth of the Year focuses on positive - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Youth of the Year focuses on positive

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Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2007 5:41 am | Updated: 7:02 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Barbara Wolfe has taken the straight path in life, and turned her dealings with drugaddicted family members and physical abuse into something positive.

“Seeing what it’s done to my family, I believe if I hadn’t seen it firsthand, I wouldn’t have known that’s not the road I want to go down,” said Wolfe, a Sequoia Charter School junior who has a 4.2 grade point average.

The Mesa 17-year-old was helped to stay on the right track by visiting the Grant Woods Branch of the Boys and Girls Club in Mesa, beginning seven years ago. She would hang out every day after school, and spend her summers volunteering and working with the kids.

“All the kids know me,” she said. “You can really relate to the staff. It’s like they’re one of the kids.”

Until she got a part-time job as a courtesy clerk at Safeway in November, Wolfe worked at the Boys and Girls Club as a game area leader and front desk clerk during the summers.

On Monday, she was selected as the East Valley Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley. The yearlong interview, training and speech process had her compete with nine candidates from other East Valley Boys and Girls branches.

“I was shocked, because all the teens are winners,” said Wolfe, who attended the awards banquet in Mesa with her mom, Dalah Elijah, stepdad, Dennis Elijah, teen director, Paul Johnson, and branch executive, Krystina Alexander.

For the distinction, she received several gift cards and a $500 voucher per semester for two years at Mesa Community College. She plans to become a high school math teacher.

The next step is competing for State Youth of the Year on April 17 in Phoenix.

Johnson, her teen director at the club, has known Wolfe since October. He said right away Wolfe opened up to him.

“I’m excited for her,” Johnson said. “I think it’s amazing (that she won). A lot of kids can get caught up in it all. It’s definitely amazing to not get caught up in it.”

Wolfe wants to use her past experiences to help other kids and show them they can stay away from drugs and alcohol.

“If it wasn’t for who you are, you wouldn’t be the person you are today,” she said. “The past is the past, and the future is what you make of it. Don’t let your circumstances hold you back.”

She is candid about her past and the dealings she had with her abusive, drug-addicted family members in Arkansas.

She moved to Mesa with her mom in 2000 to get away from the problems.

Besides her work at the club, Wolfe plays the viola, enjoys singing and is involved in tai chi and honors classes at school.

She also enjoys making usable items out of duct tape.

She wears a duct tape bracelet with a picture of her great-grandmother, Ruth Kroamer, who passed away last week at 85 years old.

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