Every year, the Boys and Girls Club of Alice honors a young member of the organization for their dedication and extraordinary work they put into the organization. On Tuesday, Matthew Rodriguez accepted the 2017 Youth of the Year award.
"I would like to thank the one and only person who has been with me throughout my entire journey and that is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Rodriguez said. " Without Him, nothing in my life would have ever been possible."
Rodriguez, 17, attends Agua Dulce High School and plans to attend Texas A&M University - Kingsville after graduation. He has been a member of the BGCA since the age of seven, approximately 10 years now.
"As far back as I can remember, my life was overcome with negativity mainly due to be bullied," he said.
Rodriguez claims he was never been "a small boy" and just before his second birthday he began to lose his skin's pigmentation. The two issues became the subject of constant bullying from his peers, but also from adults at his school.
"My self-esteem was so low that most of the times I started believing what they said and though maybe I would never do anything right in my life. It got to the point where I quit playing sports and only was around my family...I had no friends," he stated. "With no friends and still being bullied, the staff at the Boys and Girls Club of Alice showed me a new life; a life where no matter how big or small, how athletic or not, how smart or not, I was somebody and they helped me find my place...My whole life began to change because of the club."
As a member of the BGCA, Rodriguez has encountered many children with different lives, all unique in their own way who each have something different to offer the world. Rodriguez helps every child that walks through the glass doors of the organization in some way.
Rodriguez wanted to be a mentor and make a difference, he stated.
One day, he encountered a child crying. Rodriguez went to help and learned the child was a victim of bullying. He counseled the child the way he would've talked to himself at the age. A friendship began after the tears were wiped away.
"The club isn't just about sport programs, educational programs, dinners, bingo fundraisers or lock-ins," Rodriguez stated. "The club is a positive place for kids where bonds are made, friendships are started, and life lessons because of the staff, the members and most importantly the board members who keep the club open month by month."
To end his acceptance, Rodriguez with his "Popo" by his side sang "How Great Is Our God" by Chris Tomlin.