Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County alumna Leonela Tase Sueiro, 18, was recognized as one of six finalists by Boys & Girls Clubs of America for its National Youth of the Year title in Washington, D.C., on September 25.

Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs’ premier recognition program that fosters a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated economy.

Leonela, who graduated from Riverview High School in May 2019, is currently a freshman at The George Washington University and pursuing a degree in psychology. She moved from Cuba to the United States with her family when she was 11 years old.

“My first couple years here, I struggled to be myself, partly because I didn’t know a word of English, but mostly because I felt alone,” said Leonela. “When I found the Boys & Girls Clubs, I gained my community back.”

Leonela continued to say how the Boys & Girls Clubs staff, programs and opportunities helped her come out of her shell and step into leadership roles.

“I can link every amazing connection I’ve created back to the Boys & Girls Clubs. The staff introduced me to a community of friends and professional networks, provided me with the tools to shape my own future, supported me on my journey and helped me become the person I want to be,” she said. “This has been the most beautiful journey. To look back at the scared little girl I was, and to realize where I am now. I’m incredibly proud of my resilience, but also incredibly grateful for the many people who have stood by me throughout this journey.”

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