¡nimo Venice Charter High School junior CeCe Cuza-Howard has been named the 2008 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Venice.

Cuza-Howard, an eight-year Boys & Girls Club member, received the honor during a special ceremony presented by Microsoft Thursday, February 28th, at Nike’s Western Region headquarters in Culver City.

In addition to the honor, Cuza-Howard will receive a $2,000 college scholarship on behalf of the club and event sponsors. She said her goal is to attend either Stanford University or Spelman College in Atlanta.

“I am very thankful to everyone at the club for being there for me through the years,” said Cuza-Howard. “The club is an amazing place for a young person to get support for their education and dreams.”

The Youth of the Year award — the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive — recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and the club. The program was founded over 60 years ago through the generosity of the Reader’s Digest Foundation.

“CeCe is an outstanding representative of the club,” said club executive director Erikk Aldridge. “She demonstrates that you don’t have to always have everything placed on a tee for you to be successful, and that there is no better measure of a person’s character than their internal desire.”

Eight judges presided over the selection process, which included hearing each candidate give a speech, a review of school transcripts and letters of recommendations and grading essays. The judges included Alec Bigelson of Bank of America; Robert Ludzinski of Nike; Sibyl Buchanan of Playa Vista; Kay Christy of The Argonaut; Madison Offenhauser of Keller Williams Realty; board member Julie Henley; Alex Rosales of the Venice Marina Rotary Club; and 2006 Youth of the Year Oscar Duncan.

Cesar Mu“oz, a 17-year-old senior at Venice High School, and Miracle Evans, a 15-year-old sophomore at Palisades Charter High School, were runners-up and will receive a $500 college scholarship.

Cuza-Howard now moves on to the state competition against other Boys & Girls Club members for the California Youth of the Year title and a $1,000 college scholarship. The winner from California will go on to compete for the title of Pacific Regional Youth of the Year and a $10,000 college scholarship.

The five regional winners will travel to Washington, D.C., in September to compete for the title of Boys & Girls Club of America’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year receives an additional $15,000 college scholarship and is installed by the President in an Oval Office ceremony.

The Boys & Girls Club of Venice, founded in 1969, annually serves about 4,000 youths.

To make a donation or to volunteer, (310) 390-4477, or www .bgcv.org/.