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‘Youth of the Year’ Honored at Google Event in Venice

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By Paul Chavez, Venice Dispatch

The Boys & Girls Club of Venice honored its 2013 Youth of the Year on Thursday night during an event hosted at the Venice office of tech giant Google.

Kimberly Woodruff, 17, a senior at Culver City High School, was given the club’s top honor during the ceremony. Woodruff has been a member of the club for seven years and was a finalist last year for the award. She is a co-founder of The Girls PACT, a weekly discussion and information-sharing group for high school girls that originally started out as a campaign against teenage pregnancy.

Woodruff said she plans to attend college and wants to study accounting and child development. Woodruff said she had a rough childhood along with her twin sister, who she is older than by a minute.

“The club always has been here for me, even when my parents weren’t,” said Woodruff, who received a standing ovation as she collected  her award.

The other finalists were Adam Fente, 18, a senior at Culver City High School; Briseida Vargas, 17, of Venice High School, and Jose Garcia, 17, a senior at Venice High School.

The Youth of the Year award includes a $1,000 scholarship and the winner can further advance in regional, state and national competition. Sponsor donations also will be split among the four finalists for their college education.

The event drew about 120 people to “The Big Lebowkski” event room at Google, one of several with Los Angeles movie themes located inside the Binocular Building on Main Street. The attendees included friends and families of the finalists, club sponsors and Capt. Jon Peters, the top-ranking officer at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division. A large video monitor showed portraits of past Youth of the Year winners, including 2012 winner Andy Perez of Venice High School and 2006 winner Oscar Duncan, a Venice High School graduate who was shot and killed last year in Venice by suspected gang members.

Tony Payne, a software engineer at Google, served as a judge and welcomed the audience. Payne said the event was part of Google’s community outreach program that encourages employees to engage with the community and to volunteer to earn money for charities. Youths at the Boys & Girsl Club of Venice crafted a so-called “Google Doodle” to thank Google for their support.

A Google Doodle made by the Boys & Girls Club of Venice was presented to Google employees on Feb. 21, 2013, during the event to honor the club's Youth of the Year.

A Google Doodle made by the Boys & Girls Club of Venice was presented to Google employees on Feb. 21, 2013, during the event to honor the club’s Youth of the Year.

Erikk Aldridge, the club’s executive director, said he attended the memorial service earlier Thursday for Dr. Jerry Buss, the late owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Aldridge said he was inspired by Buss’ legacy and proud of the club’s graduating seniors. In another basketball note, Aldridge said that Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and his wife, Jada, will provide prom dresses and accessories for Woodruff and Vargas and 98 other girls in Los Angeles.

The club also honored Alvin Michaelson and his wife, Lisa, with a Community Leader Award for their sponsorship of the club. Aldridge said the couple watched a documentary on former Clippers player and UCLA star Baron Davis, who credited his local Boys & Girls Club with saving his life, and they later decided to support the Boys & Girls Club of Venice. Michaelson, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is a well known criminal defense lawyer who has represented clients ranging from a Mexican drug kingpin to the family of a 20-year-old Los Angeles man who died in the late 1980s in police custody. His wife has been a nurse at UCLA for more than 20 years.

“There are children born in some of these communities who are literally doomed from day one,” Michaelson said. After watching the Davis documentary, he said it was an easy decision to help the club.

The club also gave a Community Leader Award to board member Marty Goldberg and outgoing board president Julie Henley.

Event sponsors included: Google, Sonrise Westside Community Church, Toyota Financial Services, Bank of America, Staples, Gap and the law firm of Robins Kaplan Miller & Ceresi.

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