Lamar High School sophomore Joseph Saenz was named the Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington and was honored Wednesday at the Champions for Kids Luncheon hosted by the youth agency.
Saenz told the crowd of around 300 people at the annual luncheon his story and the impact that the youth agency has had on his life. The well-spoken teen said that despite having no relationship with his drug-addicted biological mother and not even knowing his biological father, he is a happy kid looking forward to a bright future.
Raised since age 12 by loving, close relatives, Saenz was urged about three years ago by his adoptive mom to join the Boys & Girls Clubs. Skeptical at first, he instantly liked the club and became active in numerous programs.
Winston Frazier, branch manager at the facility where the teen participates said: “Joseph has a way for making his presence felt in any room and always leaves an impact on those that meet him. I believe this Youth of the Year competition is the steppingstone for his future.”
Other staff members say that Saenz is well respected by his peers and is often recognized for his positive attitude, leadership skills and genuine concern for the club and others.
Saenz said the award was especially meaningful “because I’m sure not the only kid who deserves this award — there are a lot of great kids in the club.” He added, “It makes me feel really special and amazing, and it means that I am representing the Boys & Girls Clubs in the way I should.”
His adoptive mom, Audrey Porter, wrote: “Joseph is destined for great things. Whatever he sets his mind on I do not doubt that he will achieve. I feel that having the opportunity to be a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs is a huge part of this and of his success and his following the right path.”
Saenz explained that his duties as the Youth of Year would include making speeches to various community groups. “Mainly I need to be an example for the younger kids so they know that anything is possible and each one of them could end up being youth of the year,” he said.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs, Saenz is president of the Keystone Club, a Street Smart mentor and has volunteered for more than 200 hours of community service.
An aspiring actor, he wants to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in the performing arts. His more immediate ambition is to graduate in the top 10 percent of his 2016 Lamar class.
He modestly summed up his recent honor when he said, “It’s just a title, but it means the world to me.”