High school senior wins Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County Youth of the Year competition, will go on to state
March 17, 2017
Youth of the Year state competition
hat: Oscar Frias will compete in the Boys & Girls Clubs state competition March 28. If he wins, the prize will be scholarship money.
When: 5-8 p.m. March 28
Where: University of Denver, 2199 S. University Blvd. in Denver
In elementary school, Oscar Frias had a hard time. He always felt like he was behind. He could say the alphabet just fine, but he was two years behind on reading. As a first-generation American, English was his second language. His parents couldn't yet speak English, and they couldn't help him past his first-grade homework.
Frias and his mom would go to the library and read books to each other. They'd go back and forth, helping each other learn to read and speak English.
He's come a long way since then.
This year, he won the Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County Youth of the Year competition. Judges based their scores on a speech, three essays, grade-point average and interview skills. He won $5,000 in scholarships to continue his education, and he will go on to compete in a state competition.
He had to speak about how the club impacted his life. He had to write about his experience with the Boys & Girls Clubs, his vision for America's youth and what he wants to be known for. He knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the skills it taught him and the community it provided.
Frias is the first in his family to be on track to graduate high school on time. He knows there's not much difference between himself and his family or anyone else who dropped out because they struggled in school.
It came down to a few different choices.
Frias started going to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County, 2400 1st Ave., when he was 9 years old. At first, he went because both his parents had to work double and triple shifts.
He'd play with the other kids and did community service. He'd pull up weeds on hot summer days and painted a couple murals around town.
"I learned a lot about myself," Frias said.
He didn't realize it then, but now he knows he gained a lot of skills from his time as a Boys & Girls Clubs member. He learned to be more outgoing, he learned his opinion matters, and he learned people care about his success.
"They embrace your strengths and show you your weaknesses and how to strengthen those," Frias said.
He left the club a couple times over the years. Sometimes he had to prioritize between the constant juggling of school, work, family, friends and the club. But he kept coming back. He used to think it was because of the staff he liked it so much.
"Now that I'm older, I realize there's a certain spirit there," Frias said. "Kids are always running around asking questions. They're so inquisitive and curious."
He said sometimes people think of the Boys & Girls Clubs as a daycare, but they shouldn't. It's a place where kids can grow and develop skills they need in life.
Frias came back to the club as a volunteer. The kids won't leave him alone.
"The kids listen so well," Frias said. "They're trying to understand the world."
He sees himself in those kids.
Now, he wants to go to college. He thinks he'll start at Aims Community College then go out of state. He's thinking about being an electrical engineer.
Frias's mother learned English along with him when they read books back and forth to each other at the library. His father went back to school to learn English. They aren't perfect at it, but they're always learning and that matters, Frias said.
He hopes he can lead his two younger sisters by example and that they stay in school. He wants them and other bilingual learners to know academics get easier if they stick with it.
"As first generation children here, we need to find a way to support ourselves and future generations to come," Frias said. "I want my future children to hope and dream for a better tomorrow."