Visitacion Valley teen Sabrina McFarland named National Youth of the Year by Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Young diversity and inclusion advocate becomes national spokesperson, representing 4.7 million kids and teens

by Cailin Stockdale

On Sept. 25, Boys & Girls Clubs of America named Sabrina C. McFarland from San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Clubhouse as its 2019 National Youth of the Year during a star-studded ceremony held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. She accepted the honor before an audience that included actress Taraji P. Henson, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Boys & Girls Club alumni Misty Copeland and J.B. Smoove. The award comes with a $100,000 academic scholarship.

Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier recognition program for club teens. The National Youth of the Year title is the highest honor a club member can receive, representing the voice of 4 million club youth. For more than 70 years, the Youth of the Year program has recognized young people for their outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle. This year, the Youth of the Year program will award more than $1 million in scholarships to club teens.

The Youth of the Year program is presented by Disney, with support from signature partner Toyota. In addition to the scholarship, Sabrina will receive a trip to Walt Disney World and a brand-new Toyota. Disney and Toyota are dedicated to empowering young people to reach their full potential and providing youth with access to the tools they need to build great futures and become the leaders of tomorrow.

Sabrina saw a drastic contrast between the opportunities available for youth in her neighborhood compared to those at the private school she attended.

“For 12 years, the Visitacion Valley Clubhouse and Camp Mendocino gave me a positive, safe environment with skilled and caring staff who believed in me,” said Sabrina, 2019-2020 National Youth of the Year. “My club and the Youth of the Year program have given me the opportunity to inspire others in my community, city, state and nation. Thanks to the club and the Youth of the Year program, I’m ready to make a difference in the world, and I can’t wait to see what this next year holds.”

Sabrina committed to the club as a 6-year-old and, in turn, the club committed to her for the next 12 years. Every day after school and all summer long, the club provided Sabrina with important programs focused on academic success, healthy lifestyles, good character and community engagement, and job readiness with earning potential.

By relying on her family and the skilled and caring staff at the Visitacion Valley Clubhouse and Camp Mendocino, Sabrina overcame significant obstacles in her life to become the outstanding young woman that she is today. More valuable than anything else, the club made sure – every day – that Sabrina felt heard, valued, loved and understood.

With the club’s help and a scholarship, she attended two of San Francisco’s most prestigious independent schools. Sabrina says she couldn’t have been more different from the other students at these schools but that the community at the Club fueled her socially and gave her the confidence to be a leader in diversity and inclusion and to excel academically at her high school.

Sabrina saw a drastic contrast between the opportunities available for youth in her neighborhood compared to those at the private school she attended. Consequently, she developed a passion for improving equality in the education system. Sabrina is attending Barnard College and aspires to be elected a member of Congress and use her voice to help advocate for changes and equity in the U.S. education system.

“It has been so powerful and inspiring to watch Sabrina embark on this journey and become Boys & Girls Clubs of America Youth of the Year,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “We know Sabrina’s experience, perspective and message will empower and inspire young people across the nation to pursue their dreams and passions to create a better future.”

Echoing the excitement, BGCSF President Rob Connolly said, “I speak for everyone in the BGCSF family – our staff, club members, parents, board of governors and trustees, donors, and volunteers – when I say how proud we all are of Sabrina’s remarkable achievement. Sabrina’s recognition on the national stage is a fitting tribute to the long line of amazing Youth of the Year from our organization.”

Each year, starting on the local level, Boys & Girls Clubs select Youth of the Year candidates who then progress to state and regional competitions, culminating with the National Youth of the Year Celebration, which features youth from each of the five regions, as well as the National Military Youth of the Year. Regional finalists are awarded up to $45,000 in scholarships.

As Youth of the Year, Sabrina will serve as an official spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America and its Young Alumni & Friends Club. Sabrina will also be an integral part of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Agenda for American’s Youth, a policy platform focusing on critical issues and solutions impacting young people.

For more information about the Youth of the Year program, visit www.youthoftheyear.org.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco

Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (kidsclub.org) is a community-based organization that offers at-risk youth ages six to 18 high-quality programs in first-class facilities. With a 128-year track record of meeting the needs of San Francisco children and families, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) welcomes more than 1,900 youth each day to its 14 locations, including eight clubhouses, four school-based clubs, Boeddeker Park and Camp Mendocino, a 2,000-acre residential summer camp in Mendocino County. By focusing on four success equation elements: academic success, healthy lifestyles, good character and community engagement, and job readiness with earning potential, BGCSF’s skilled and caring staff prepare Club members to be “ready for life” by age 18.

Cailin Stockdale, director of marketing and communication for the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, can be reached at cstockdale@kidsclub.org.