Youth STARs shine bright Friday

Big smile, bigger hair —€” Corbin Gomez, 17, receives his Youth STAR award from Vision Coalition board member Sharon Hoff, as board member Rick Deubel, left, looks on and Executive Director DJ Peterson, right, reads Corbin’s accomplishments. Corbin is instrumental in the Youth Executive League, which coordinates youth activities at the El Dorado Hills Library and the Community Services District’s Teen Center. Village Life photos by Mike Roberts

That glow in the sky above Town Center Friday night was El Dorado County’s youth STARs lighting up Lakehills Church, where the El Dorado Hills Community Vision Coalition recognized 38 amazing kids at a red carpet dinner and awards event.

The winners took the stage one at a time to receive their award while a summary of their community service was read aloud to the roughly 150 attendees, none more important than their families, many of whom whooped and stomped when their progeny was announced.

Werner and Juliet Gomez’s son Corbin was recognized as the backbone of the spirited Youth Executive League, YELL, which coordinates youth activities between the El Dorado Hills Library and the EDH Community Services District’s Teen Center.

Corbin writes grants, designs websites for group activities and represents YELL in the community. His father Werner beamed with pride.

“These kids are doing so much more than we ever did at this age; it’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s great for the community, it’s great for us.”

Juliet Gomez chimed in. “It’s so important to acknowledge their achievements like this. This is something tangible that will shape these kids, something they’ll remember, something they can carry into adulthood.”

Vision Coalition Executive Director DJ Peterson served as master of ceremonies for the evening, which was organized by Project Coordinator Raeann Jones, and included a delicious dinner provided by Culinary Arts students from the Foothill Grill at El Dorado High School.

The awards were presented by Vision board members Dr. Roger Taylor, Bill Wild, Shannon Hoff, Rick Deubel, Christy White and Ruette Carstenson.

Adding some political clout to the tribute, District 10 Assemblywoman Alyson Huber’s staffer Elizabeth Cox presented each award winner with a certificate of recognition from the state Assembly.

The fifth annual Youth STAR award winners are:

Andrew Bassett, Kirsti Buckendorf, Bevyn Cassidy, Andrea Chavero, Leah Craft, Pre Deitchman, Krista Derdowski, Martina Dickerson, Samita Dutta, Taylor Eilders, Marissa Flickinger, Lily Forbes, Brandon Garcia, Rohit Golconda, Corbin Gomez, Casey Halkett, Andrew Halverson, Madison Hames, Shannen Hansen, Miranda Hernandez, Alexa Hill, McKenzie Jones, Weylin Kuang, Ryan Ladd, Sara Ladd, Maggie Langdon, Zola Maaga, Fiabi Menendez, Megan Moestopo, John Moestopo, Kelsey Nager, Sam Phelan, Jodie Reiner, Marco Sanchez, Hannah Sobelman, Nathan Somavarapu, Malik Winn and Gabriela Zeagler.

Winners are nominated by members of the community. The class of 2011 had deep public service resumés that include student government, Link Crew, PARTY, WEB, Hands for Hope, YELL, Friday Night Live, Point Break, Interact and honor societies. Many were Golden Star Students, Safe School ambassadors, peer counselors, mentors and volunteers in a wide variety of service organizations.

The coalition provides direct funding to more than 25 local youth organizations through “mini-grants.” Funding comes from donations and grants, the largest being a highly competitive federal Drug Free Communities Support grant.

El Dorado Hills placed first among 559 applicant communities last year, said Peterson.

Besides dishing out funds, Peterson and Jones provide training for youth organization leaders, and also mentor startup coalitions in the area, the most recent of which is South Lake Tahoe.

A prior mentee, Rancho Cordova, placed first among 452 applicants for the Drug Free Communities grant this year, said Peterson.

“We’re here to provide engagement opportunities in the community,” he said. “When kids are involved in community activities they’ve got a much better chance of avoiding obstacles like drugs, alcohol and tobacco.”

In the coalition’s six years of existence, “We’ve reduced alcohol use among 11th graders by 20 percent,” he added. “That’s less drinking, less drinking and driving, less passengers of drinking drivers. We are saving lives.”

The Youth STAR Award night is an exception to the Vision Coalition’s typically behind-the-scenes support of youth organizations and activities in the community.

The coalition’s other high profile event, the Mardi Gras fundraiser, is coming up on Feb. 4, 2012, at Mercedes-Benz of El Dorado Hills. Details are on the Vision Coalition website, edhvisioncoalition.org.

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