As our 2021 Youth of the Year, Jorge H. recognizes his responsibility as an advocate for youth, especially for children and teens served by Boys & Girls Clubs. Jorge is committed to ensuring all youth, regardless of the obstacles they may face, have equal access to opportunities that help them realize their full potential.
While Jorge's passions range from breaking the cycle of domestic violence to promoting environmental sustainability, he is primarily focusing on equitable education throughout his tenure as our 2021 Youth of the Year.
"I want to make sure that equitable education is the norm for every single youth in this country, and not the exception," Jorge says.
Jorge first witnessed the severe implications of inequities in education as a child growing up in La Vigia, Cuba. He remembers seeing the academic success of his neighbors and family members confided to their restrictive realities, overshadowed by a number of societal barriers that obstructed their educational opportunities.
"I carry their stories with me," he says. "These stories motivate me to continue fighting for students as Youth of the Year."
Jorge spearheads an advocacy campaign for culturally-responsive education as Outreach Chair of The Club's Youth Council, which unites high school students across Sarasota County and seeks to address pressing concerns of our community. The Club’s Youth Council was established in 2020 in response to widely-publicized incidents of social and racial injustice. This initiative was presented with the 2020 Core Program Award in Character and Leadership Development by Boys & Girls Clubs of America and its Florida Area Council.
Youth Council members meet each week on a virtual platform to discuss important issues and learn how they can bring tangible change to our local community through advocacy and action.
"Achievement gaps that disproportionately impact minority students are reminders that educational inequities restrict my classmates' present, just as the absence of educational opportunities governed my neighbors' past," Jorge says. "Our Youth Council is calling for enhanced teacher training, diversified curricula and inclusion of minority students in our schools."
Jorge has played a critical role in pushing the campaign forward by galvanizing support from community leaders and local businesses and encouraging school officials to take actionable steps that close opportunity gaps.
In addition to his involvement in the Youth Council, Jorge leads discussions with school officials to explore the benefits of equitable education on topics such as representation in literature. He also co-founded the Alta-Vista Mentorship Program in hopes of expanding the missing history instruction typically found in underfunded schools.
"My team and I create bi-weekly interactive lesson plans for students attending a local Title 1 elementary school," Jorge says. "Alta-Vista's mentees serve as inspiration, reminding me why I care so deeply about this issue."
Jorge also sits on the School Board's Equity Committee and works to elevate the voices of students throughout the county.
"I am determined to create a future where no student is forgotten," he says.
Jorge will start his collegiate journey at Columbia University in the fall. He plans to study political science and environmental sustainability.
Jorge's dedication to creating a brighter future for all youth inspires our organization to establish innovative programs that serve as platforms for children and teens to explore their passions. We invite you to see the impact of our programs for yourself. Call 941-366-3911 to schedule a Club tour today.