The whirlwind spring for William Chrisman sophomore Vanesa Rodriguez continues.

Rodriguez, who last month was named the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City Youth of the Year, received the State Youth of the Year honor last week in Jefferson City.

“It was kind of surprising, but in a way it wasn't,” said Rodriguez, who received a $5,000 college scholarship for her award after receiving a $1,000 scholarship with her Greater KC honor. “There were a lot of good candidates, but I had wanted it and worked really hard for it.”

Rodriguez and other candidates gave their interviews and speeches on April 12 – she was chosen as the winner based on those – then gave their speeches again the next day at the Missouri State Capitol. Rodriguez said her speech focused on how the Boys & Girls Club helped her learn to trust people after her mother and siblings emigrated to the United States, first in New York City and eventually in Independence.

“I've been given a lot of opportunities at the Club for leadership,” she said, “and they taught me to embrace myself.”

“I was happy and started crying,” Rodriguez said of hearing her name called as the winner. “If it wasn't for the Club, I wouldn't be able to do this at all.

“(My mother) had to work. She wanted to join me, five minutes after I won I called her and told her.”

At Chrisman, Rodriguez plays volleyball and has been nominated to the National Academy of Future Physicians.

She hopes to be the first person in her family to graduate from college, then pursue a career in the medical field. At Boys & Girls Clubs, she is former vice president and current president of the Keystone Club, a teen group dedicated to leadership and community service, and often can be found assisting Club staff or mentoring younger members.

“Vanesa continues to make us proud,” said Sharon Cleaver, director of marketing and communications. “Her presentation in Jefferson City was flawless and sincere. We have high hopes for her as she moves on to the regional level.”

Rodriguez will go to the Youth of the Year regional competition July 21 in Chicago. If named the regional winner, she will receive a $10,000 four-year renewable college scholarship and will be one of six finalists for the national competition in Washington, D.C., which will be Sept. 26.

The National Youth of the Year will receive an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable for four years up to $100,000 and will have the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States in the White House.