Angel Verdusco walked on stage. The bright lights projected onto his face as sweat formed on his palms. He looked at the three judges. The words of his speech swarmed around his head, and finally he began.
Verdusco, a senior, was selected as a nominee for the 2019 Youth of the Year award. The award wasn’t something handed to him, it was something he had to earn.
And the path to this honor was difficult.
Verdusco was born a U.S. citizen. However, his mother was undocumented, and she returned to Mexico when he was eight years old.
Without their mother to care for them, Verdusco and his younger brother stayed in the U.S. with their stepfather, who he believed at the time to be his biological father. It was only a few years ago that Verdusco learned that the man who raised him was not his birth father.
Verdusco described the news as “extremely difficult,” but continues to keep his life moving.
After his stepdad was deported, Verdusco’s journey of constant moving began.
“During the last few years, since my mother left the United States and my stepdad was deported, the Boys & Girls Club was a welcome and familiar sight between my travels from Mexico, Texas and Holland,” Verdusco said.
Verdusco was constantly moving between Holland, Texas, and Mexico because he didn’t have anyone to permanently stay with. He never stayed in one place too long and had many temporary homes, but always adjusted and never let his situation bring him down.
Verdusco’s character developed through all the hardships, and he excelled at Boys & Girls Club. He was well known by all the staff, and it became his second home. His perseverance made him a prime nominee for the Youth of the Year award.
In order for students to be considered for the award they have to be passing all their classes, be part of the Boys and Girls Club for at least two years, and have leadership qualities. These leadership qualities are displaying character, being respectful, and being helpful.
After the staff made a list of those who qualified, they voted to elect the official nominees.
Verdusco had all the requirements to be one of the nominee’s for Youth of the Year. He had been going to the club for seven years and often volunteered around the club. Justin Caserta, the director of the North side Boys and Girls club, said, “Angel’s a good guy, he helps around the club all the time. A lot of the staff knew that Angel deserved to be one of the nominees.”
After Verdusco was nominated for the award, he was required to write three essays. The essays had to explain his vision for America’s youth, his personal brand, and his experience at Boys and Girls Club.
Verdusco’s brand, “An Engine.”
In Verdsuco’s essay, he compares himself to a car engine. Verdusco wrote, “Like the engine making your car run, I have many moving parts generating power and energy which supports my life.” A few of Verdusco’s “moving parts” that help him support his life are communication and his drive to be the best he can be.
When Verdusco traveled between Mexico and Michigan throughout his life, he learned “the importance of starting off a conversation with kind words and a welcoming person.” Verdusco used those skills to help him adjust from home to home.
Verdusco’s hardships have helped him push to be the best he can be. He is the oldest and feels as though he has to set an example for his younger siblings.
Verdusco’s vision focused on the broken immigration system. He speaks of the families being separated as they come to the United States for asylum. His personal experiences help support his view of the immigration system.
Being born from an undocumented mother and witnessing his stepfather’s deportation made him understand what other children were feeling as they were ripped from their parents.
Verdusco has been personally affected by the immigration system and seen how it affects families. He speaks from the experience he lived through to advocate for the change he wants to see.
The way Verdusco described Boys and Girls Club is filled with gratitude and respect. Boys and Girls Club was always a place for him to be himself and feel the love from others.
In his essay about his experience at Boys and Girls Club, he describes it as “the one constant I have been able to rely on during my most difficult times,” a “safe place,” and “present support that has kept me grounded.”
Verdusco also spoke of the new teen director, Jo’Anne Garza. Garza was one of the people who pushed Verdusco to reach his full potential.
Verdusco described Garza as a mother figure, and someone who always had faith in him. She sat him down to talk about his plans and help those plans become his reality.
“This past holiday season we worked on college applications and I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Through the staff at Boys and Girls Club, he found a family and support system that looks after him.
Because of Verdusco’s leadership, and effort, he won the Youth of the Year award. He never let his past impede his future.
The award was earned through his hard work and perseverance.