Dozens of Santa Barbara–area teens were crowned as “superheroes” as part of the 11th Annual Youth Awards Banquet, where 49 young students were recognized for their superhero-like qualities and accomplishments by the City of Santa Barbara in association with the Santa Barbara Teen Coalition.
“We’d all like to believe that there’ll be somebody else who will save the day,” said State Assemblymember Das Williams in his address to the students last Friday, May 11, at the Carrillo Recreation Ballroom, “but it’s you who are going to save the day, and I’m proud to represent and work with all of you.”
Three honorees, Sandee Taylor, Adrian Alcala, and Marino Duarte Munoz, were finalists for the 2012 Youth Leaders of the Year. The winner, Taylor, and runners-up, Alcala and Munoz, each received scholarships for their academic achievements in the face of difficult obstacles. Mayor Helene Schneider described each student’s achievements while presenting the awards.
Taylor earned above a 4.0 grade point average while financially supporting herself, at one point living in a trolley car before moving in with a friend. She fell off a 40-foot cliff in an accident but continues to thrive in and out of the classroom. In addition to working at the Farmers Market and at a yoga studio, Taylor is president of Santa Barbara High School’s Green Club.
Alcala was raised by his siblings after losing his mother to domestic violence and being separated from his father. He is the first in his family to attend a four-year college and plans to counsel youth like him after graduation.
Munoz emigrated from Mexico and is separated from his family, but he has maintained a high grade point average and is graduating with honors. “I’m just happy and very proud,” said Munoz when receiving the award.
Guest speaker Davies Kabogoza, who lists “faith, hope, and love” as life’s strongest pillars, gave an inspiring talk to the students. A gifted soccer player and outstanding student, Kabogoza received a scholarship to play soccer for Santa Barbara City College.
“My life has been crying and sorrow most times,” Kabogoza said. He grew up in a small Ugandan village with his mother, two brothers, and sister, usually eating only one meal a day and working for 25 cents a day to support his entire family.
“Life is like a book,” Kabogoza told the audience. “It always takes someone who is brave enough and patient enough to finish, but it’s always joy at the end.”