Carlos Romo of La Habra, named National Youth of the Year by the Boys Clubs of America, will be installed in his new position by President Reagan in ceremonies today at the White House.
Romo, 18, has been a member of the Boys and Girls Club of La Habra since age 9. Tom Sauer, the club’s executive director, described him as a “fine and deserving young man with a neat sense of humor.”
Romo is “plain and natural, very down-to-earth,” Sauer said. “And he’s gotten a lot of those characteristics from his Boys Club involvement.”
Boys Clubs of America is a national organization for boys and girls ages 7 to 18.
In Washington on Wednesday, Romo said: “I’m lost for words, but I feel great. It’s an honor. I’m just proud to be part of such a great organization.”
Born and raised in La Habra’s El Campo section, Romo credited his Boys Club experience with keeping him away from youth gang involvement and drug abuse.
“The peer pressure can get tremendous,” Sauer said. “Carlos sets a good role model for our younger members to follow.”
After receiving the Boy of the Year award, Romo was nominated for the national Youth of the Year competition. He won at both the state and regional levels to reach the final round of judging in Washington, where he competed against four other regional winners.
“The competition was fierce,” Sauer said. “All five of the finalists are very outstanding. I felt Carlos deserved to win but, really, every one of those finalists is a winner.”
In 1984, Romo logged more than 1,500 hours of community service work, including city beautification projects and assisting senior citizens.
In 1983, he organized a slow-pitch softball tournament to raise money for a Boys Club staff member whose 5-year-old daughter Reina was being treated for cancer. In its first year, “Softballing for Reina” raised $3,000 for medical costs and, in its second year, the effort netted $2,500, which was donated to Childrens Hospital of Orange County for cancer research.
He also carried the Olympic torch for the La Habra Boys and Girls Club in the 1984 Olympic torch relay. “That’s an experience I’ll remember forever,” Romo said. “It’s like being a part of history.”
Romo has held every leadership position within his Keystone Club, a leadership group within the Boys Club that plans and coordinates community service projects.
“Keystoning has helped me develop personal values and leadership qualities. I’ve learned that there is a lot more to life than just yourself,” Romo said.
At La Habra High School, Romo was captain of the varsity soccer team. Now a freshman at Fullerton College, Romo plans to become an attorney.
As Youth of the Year, Romo will represent 1.2 million members of Boys Clubs across the country. He also receives a $5,000 scholarship from the Reader’s Digest Foundation, sponsor of the Boys Clubs of America.
He and the four runners-up will meet with President Reagan today at 4:30 p.m. (EST) in the Oval Office.
After his year of traveling and representing the Boys Clubs, Romo will be too old for active membership, but he plans to join his club’s alumni program.
“Maybe I’ll even get hired as a staff member,” he said. “Someday, later in life, I hope to come back and serve on the National Board of Boys Clubs.”
Romo lives with his mother and stepfather, Fernanda and Jose Bocanegra, in La Habra.