JERSEY CITY, NJ - Congratulations are in order for Jersey City resident Tatiana Cruz, named the New Jersey Youth of the Year by Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

A recent graduate of McNair High School, Cruz has been recognized for her leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle. As the New Jersey Youth of the Year, Tatiana will serve as an ambassador for all teens in the state. She will receive a $12,500 college scholarship – $10,000 from Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey and $2,500 from Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Tatiana will go on to contend for the regional Youth of the Year and ultimately the national title.

Upon receiving the award, Cruz was completely blown away, "I was questioning it, honestly. I was like, ‘Is this real? Did I hear my name correctly?’ I was about to cry. I was trying to hold back tears of joy.”

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A member of the Boys & Girls Club for eight years, she participated in many programs including Career Launch and Diplomas to Degrees. In addition, Tatiana held positions for her Club’s teen group dedicated to leadership and community service serving as Keystone Club President and Secretary. Other community service activities include her work with Brunswick Community Garden and Soul Studios Art Residency. Tatiana has received a number of honors including the Horatio Alger Scholarship semi-finalist, QuestBridge National College Match Finalist and the NJ Scholastic Art awards.

Tatiana has also been a member of Junior ROTC, a volunteer at the Jersey City Medical Center, and a participant in the Boys & Girls Club’s workforce development program, resulting in a paid internship at Best Buy. As a member of the Club she has joined a myriad of activities from college tours to art projects to attending the Youth Summit in Boston representing our Teen Tech Center. A few examples of Tatiana’s commitment to community and the world include being part of the Jersey City March for Our Lives Steering Committee and contributing illustrations to a reading primer created for a school in Rwanda.

“It’s amazing to be chosen. I’m essentially the role model for club kids, and non-club kids," she said. "To be able to promote an organization that cares so much about social justice issues, promoting college career readiness- especially to minority kids.”

Cruz graduated from McNair with 3.7 GPA. She will be attending Rutgers University majoring in Neuroscience, and her career aspiration is to be a Physician.

“We are incredibly proud of Tatiana and all the Youth of the Year nominees,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Being named Youth of the Year is a lifelong honor. As the New Jersey Youth of the Year, Tatiana will serve as a spokesperson for Boys & Girls Club kids across the state who need more role models that they can admire and emulate.”

This September, Tatiana will join other state winners to compete for the Northeast regional title and an additional $20,000 college scholarship. Six youth, including five regional winners and a military youth winner, will advance to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year will receive an additional scholarship of $50,000. For more information about the Youth of the Year program, visit www.youthoftheyear.org.

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