Each year, the KIDS Network hosts the Youth Impact Awards ceremony to honor outstanding youth aged 10-18 who have made a significant positive impact on their communities in the county.
This year’s winners and honorees were announced at the Youth Impact Awards ceremony, presented in English and Spanish on May 4 at Veterans Memorial Community Center Auditorium in Santa Maria. Winners and honorees received awards and a small cash prize, and all nominees received a certificate and acknowledgment from elected officials. Festivities included a color guard ceremony and a fresh food buffet, both provided by members of the County Probation Department’s Los Prietos Boys Camp.
Two awards were distributed—the Victory Award and the Champion Award—and two runners-up in each category were honored as well.
The Victory Award recognizes those who have overcome adversity and hardship to help others. The 2017 Victory Award winner is a high school student who has faced so much adversity that her nominators requested she be identified only by her first name to protect her identity. Chloe experienced an alarming amount of complex trauma early in life, yet she has learned to believe in herself and be there for others, sharing a contagious energy and a caring attitude with all. She gives others hope, a smile, and a shoulder to cry on—serving as a role model and mentor to friends, her younger brother, and other children. Inspired by those who have helped her get her own life back on track, Chloe plans to pursue a career in a profession where she can help others.
The Champion Award recognizes long-standing or time-intensive service that has helped others overcome adversity and hardship. The 2017 Champion Award winner is Alisha Kay Erb of Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria. Alisha is passionate about giving back to the community and helping other children who are experiencing the same hardships she has faced—volunteering as a tutor and mentor at the Good Samaritan Homeless Shelter after-school program. She is Vice- President of the Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley Youth Action Group, and recently attended the Youth Quest Conference in Sacramento, where she was her group’s spokesperson to State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham’s office. Alisha impresses the adults in her life with her kindness, empathy and intelligence, participating in numerous trainings and community service events while earning academic honors.
The honorees (runners-up) in both categories illustrate why it was difficult to pick a single winner for each award. The Victory honorees are Norma Bautista of Grizzly Youth Academy and Sergio Ochoa of Pioneer Valley High School. The Champion honorees are Eduardo Gomez of Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria, and Paulina Romero of Santa Barbara High School.
Norma was not in school when she entered the Grizzly program. Today, she is focused on completing high school and is maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Norma works 10-hour days to support her family, and volunteers on the School Attendance Review Board to help other teens facing conflicts between their school and life responsibilities.
Sergio was labeled a “problem child” before he started participating in the Boys & Girls Club in fifth grade. Today, as a successful high school student, he’s still at the club daily, but as a Keystone Leadership Club member and role model to the younger kids.
Eduardo is a passionate and self-motivated young man who participates in numerous school-based clubs including Central Coast Future Leaders. He has donated more than 150 documented hours of community service, plays several instruments, and works long hours during school breaks to help support his family.
Paulina had to learn English and a new culture in 4th grade. Today, she serves as Student Body secretary and treasurer, promotes a pro-social school environment in AHA!’s Peace Builders and after-school programs, volunteers at Cottage Hospital, maintains a high GPA, tutors others, and teaches Spanish at youth camp.
The KIDS Network is a Santa Barbara Countywide organization including members from public agencies, the courts, law enforcement, education, community-based organizations, school-linked programs and parent groups. The KIDS Network was created by the County Board of Supervisors in 1991 as an advisory body on children and family issues. It provides data on children’s well-being, and supports key initiatives benefiting children and families. It is administered by the County Department of Social Services.