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Youth of the Year Honored by Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 30, 2013 -- The Boy & Girls Club of Santa Monica (SMBGC) named Gretchen Galanis the 2012 Youth of the Year (YOY) Saturday at a banquet held at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

The 17-year-old Galanis was picked to receive the honor from a pool of four candidates for her “outstanding contribution of service” and her “exceptional leadership among her peers,” Club officials said.

“When they called my name from the stage” she was excited and surprised, Galanis said. “There were other candidates and I was excited that it was happening.”

Galanis, who started going to the Santa Monica Branch of the Boys & Girls Club when she was in eighth grade, hopes to be attending Fordham University in the fall, where she intends to major in International Relations and Communications.

“Gretchen is a shining example of a young person who has made outstanding contributions to the Club and her community and has overcome extremely challenging obstacles to become the leader she is today,” said Aaron Young, president and CEO of SMBGC.

“She is a living proof that great futures start here, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica,” he said.

Galanis comes from “a strict military family,” she said and she intends on continuing the tradition. Eventually, she said, she wants to join the Navy and start a Naval branch of the Boys & Girls Club.

However, Galanis believes that her work with the SMBGC, especially the Keystone program, has prepared her for a life of leadership.

She said she has worked on projects to help bring awareness to issues ranging from the impact of bullying to recovery efforts for the victims of hurricane Katrina.

“We fundraised hundreds of dollars and sent it” victims of the hurricane, she said, talking about the work of SMBGC's project.

In 2012, she traveled to Liverpool, England where she worked with Habitat for Humanity and helped to build homes for low-income families.

“Gretchen’s capacity to give back is remarkable,” officials said. “Even with her first real paycheck she received after she began working at the Club, she elected to donate half of it back to charity.”

With the title of Youth of the Year comes responsibility, according to SMBGC officials.

“As our 2012 Youth of the Year, Gretchen will serve as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica’s youth spokesperson in the community,” they said.

The honor will also give Galanis the opportunity to compete for the title of Youth of the Year at the county, state, regional and national levels and she vie for scholarships for post-secondary education.

Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C., to compete for the title of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year.

The honor comes with a chance to meet the President of the United States and a scholarship of up to $50,000.

Saturday's banquet was hosted by Santa Monica Chief of Police Jacqueline Seabrooks.

Sponsors Kiwanis Club of Santa Monica, the Pacific Youth Foundation, White & Company Insurance Inc., and Frank & Gwen Schwengel and Bank of America provided scholarships for the youth honored at Saturday's banquet, officials said.

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