Three teenagers told stories of hardship and hope Wednesday night in semi-finals of the "Youth of the Year" speech competition held at the Moldaw-Zaffaroni East Palo Alto Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula.
Menlo-Atherton High School students Diquan Richard and Bernardo Quevedo and Eastside College Prep student Salvador Rodriguez were the three East Palo Alto finalists who spoke before families, friends and supporters in a festive "Youth of the Year" celebration at the East Palo Alto clubhouse.
Rodriguez, a high school senior who hopes to graduate from college and become a computer engineer, was chosen to represent the East Palo Alto clubhouse in the next level of competition, to be held Friday, Feb. 1, at the same venue.
Rodriguez is a soccer player and a Boys & Girls Club coach who says he aspires to "break the cycle of gang violence in East Palo Alto by increasing positive influences."
He will compete Friday against speech winners from the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula's other two clubhouses, the McNeil Family Clubhouse in Menlo Park and the Mervin G. Morris Clubhouse in Redwood City.
The winner of that round will advance to a Northern California competition.
Judging the East Palo Alto speech contestants Wednesday were former Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa, former East Palo Alto Mayor Laura Martinez, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis, Stanford football player Stephan Taylor and Susann Mirabella, a cochair of the Peninsula Ball, which supports the Boys & Girls Club.
"Youth of the Year" contestants are evaluated on their resilience, accomplishments and how well they represent the values of the Boys & Girls Club. The Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula is an after-school home for K-12 children in East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park and Redwood City.
Video by Veronica Weber and Tyler Hanley/Palo Alto Online.