Steven Alvarado is happy to give back to an organization that has given him so much.

Alvarado, a senior at Hillsboro High School, was named “Youth of the Year” last week by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland.

He’s been attending the Inukai Family Boys & Girls Club in Hillsboro for 10 years, and Alvarado, 17, said being a part of the club has helped him so much during his childhood and youth that he realized he wanted to give something COURTESY PHOTOS - Steven Alvarado, a member of the Inukai Family Boys & Girls Club in Hillsboro, is the Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland.

“It’s kept me on track,” Alvarado said of the guidance and support he’s received.

One of five Portland area youths competing for Youth of the Year honors, Alvarado won a $1,000 scholarship and will represent the Portland metropolitan area in statewide competition April 11.

If he’s chosen to be the statewide youth of the year, he’ll go on to represent Oregon in the national contest.

Alvarado credits the Inukai Family Club for giving him the support he needed during a particularly difficult time in his life.

“Heading into my teenage years, my life was struck with disaster. The death of my father had struck me hard and it struck me fast,” he wrote in an essay about what the Boys & Girls Club means to him. “I had made many attempts at suicide while mourning the tragic realization of my father’s passing. For a while I kept to myself ... finally, after weeks of blocking myself out, I opened up ... After explaining my hardships to staff and friends, I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Alvarado now volunteers his time at the club, in between classes at Hilhi and a part-time job he has taken on to help support his family. He is the oldest child in the family, and three of Alvarado’s four brothers also attend the Boys & Girls Club.

“It’s like a family affair,” said club director Nick Eaton, who describes Alvarado as “dynamic.”

Eaton said Alvarado has been involved with the club’s leadership training since middle school, when he was a member of the Torch Club, and now as a leader-in-training. Leadership club members learn life skills and values such as citizenship and community service.

“Steven doesn’t have the easiest smile, doesn’t say much, but truly shines as a leader,” Eaton said. “He exhibits his leadership through actions rather than words; doesn’t give in to the many vices that plague so many of today’s teens; remains loyal to his family as the man of the house; is driven, responsible, caring and goofy.”

After high school, Alvarado hopes to attend Portland Community College and then transfer to Portland State University.

Looking back, Alvarado recalls his first, tenuous visit to the club as a 7-year-old.

“Stepping off the school bus, I speculated why my parents would ever force me to come to this place,” he wrote in another portion of his essay. “A small building surrounded by broken streets, the loud hum of moving trains, and the everlasting presence of police sirens around the city.”

However, Alvarado finally did step in the door.

“I saw that it was full with excited faces, and laughing children. I was received by name,” he wrote.

Now, 10 years later, he’s one of those who warmly greets the youngsters who step through the door for the first time.

“I love this place,” Alvarado said. “It’s a great place.”

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