Aleece Watson knows that without the volunteers, staff and her peers at the Boys & Girls Club in Camarillo, she wouldn’t be the young woman she is today.
The 15-year-old Camarillo resident has been a member of the youth club since the sixth grade. It served as a fun after-school hangout where she and her friends took art lessons or practiced with the dance team.
What she didn’t know at the time was that the club would be more than just a place to go after school. It helped her get back on track after she started letting her class work slide as a middle school student at Los Primeros School of Sciences and Arts.
“I started not caring about school and getting in trouble with boys,” Aleece said.
Her mentors at the Boys & Girls Club noticed her absence and encouraged her to focus on school and return to the club.
Their insistence surprised the young girl.
“I didn’t know I had so many people that cared about me and wanted me to come back,” Aleece said. “I truly didn’t know how much support I had and that they wanted me to do good.”
Aleece began to attend the club regularly and threw herself into volunteer activities. She quickly turned her school life around—so much so that the Boys & Girls Club in Camarillo named Watson its Youth of the Year in January.
“She was a strong candidate because she overcame a lot of adversity,” said club CEO William Locker.
Aleece was one of three candidates who applied for the award. She was selected by the club’s board members and will compete for the same title regionally. If chosen, Aleece will move on to state and national competitions.
Roberto Martinez, vice president of programs, said Aleece was chosen because she is bright, creative and passionate about the Keystone Club, a leadership program for teenagers who volunteer in the community. Aleece has participated in CSU Channel Island’s Relay For Life, community cleanup programs and club dances.
The Newbury Park High School freshman also mentors younger children at the club.
Martinez said Aleece is a great role model because she’s a natural-born leader.
“Aleece likes to make her own decisions, and she’s the type that weighs out all the options and makes up her own mind,” Martinez said. “She’s the strong, silent type that’s always observing and taking in information.”
Aleece will travel with two other Boys & Girls Club members to an annual Keystone Club conference in Atlanta in March. After high school, she said, she wants to become a party planner or attend cosmetology school.