BRISTOL – Stanley Cardona was selected as the Bristol Boys & Girls Club’s 2019 Youth of the Year Thursday from among three finalists.
“So, I won – cool, I guess,” said a surprised Cardona, who then thanked all of his supporters. “Without your guys’ and the club’s support where would we be today? I’m excited for the upcoming year and I can’t wait to see where it leads.”
The winner was determined by a panel of community judges including Scott Gaudet from ESPN, Patrick Mulligan from Trumpf and Don Coombs, president of the club’s Older Members Association. Friends and family members attended the announcement event to show their support for the contestants, all of whom are members of the Keystone Club. The club provides community service, including mentoring younger club members, bringing Valentines Day cards to seniors and volunteering in the local homeless shelter.
Nicole Rivera, Youth of the Year program director, said it is the club’s highest honor.
“I love a good, friendly competition,” she said. “It allows kids to showcase who they really are and how they got there.”
Michael Suchopar, president and CEO, praised all the contestants.
“You are some of the best kids in the country,” he said. “You represent our values and a hard work ethic. You are what most kids dream of being. Your character is wonderful.”
Daneirys Rivera, the 2018 Youth of the Year, also congratulated them.
“No matter who wins you are all amazing,” she said before the announcement. “You guys are really my brothers; I watched you all grow into the best versions of yourselves.”
Just before he announced the winner, Coombs said that all contestants have overcome obstacles, they are all winners and they “will all go places.”
Cardona said he was “extremely excited to be a finalist.” He originally came to the club through the St. Vincent DePaul shelter and has been a club member for two years. He is a vice president of the Keystone Club.
“Being here means I’ve improved over the past couple years,” he said. “The Boys & Girls Club has changed me from someone who was quiet and introverted and didn’t speak much to someone who is comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.”
Cardona said he has always loved acting and that through the club’s Edge Film program he learned to keep in character on camera.
Keystone Club, he said, taught him “interpersonal and social skills to be a better person.”
Jeremy Artis and Logan Cote were the other two finalists.
Artis, who is a member of the Cambridge Park Clubhouse, said the Boys & Girls Club helped him with personal growth.
“It made me more confident and gave me the skills to be a natural leader,” he said. “It taught me that I could either let my negative experiences drag me down or I could reflect on them and learn from them to become greater.”
Artis said he enjoyed working with younger kids as part of Keystone Club.
“They’re all different and I want to help them strive for their dreams and not give up,” he said. “I see potential in so many of them and to see it go to waste would be sad.”
Cote originally came to the club to fulfill a community service obligation and said that the club helped him find out who he really is.
“I came from broken home and got bullied a lot when I was growing up and I got back involved in the club after I got into trouble,” he said. “But being part of the club has helped me to take the opposite path to the one I was on.”
Cote said he enjoys volunteering and helping out the community through Keystone Club.
“I like putting smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “If I can do that, it makes my day and makes me feel accomplished.”
The event was catered by 99 Restaurant.