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Mission Hills High School senior Isabella Jimenez-Ramirez is the 2024 San Diego County Youth of the Year. Courtesy photo.
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San Marcos teen is San Diego County Youth of the Year

SAN MARCOS — Mission Hills High School senior Isabella Jimenez-Ramirez has been named San Diego County’s Youth of the Year.

The prestigious honor means that Jimenez-Ramirez will serve as an ambassador for more than 33,000 Boys and Girls Club youth members in the San Diego region.

A self-described wallflower, Jimenez-Ramirez was painstakingly shy when she first started going to the Boys and Girls Club of San Marcos at the age of 7.

Soon after, she surprised everyone when she chose to join the club’s flag football team in first grade, even though everyone towered at least an entire foot above her. She knew nothing about the game and didn’t consider herself much of an athlete, but that didn’t stop her from finding the courage to try something new.

It’s that same resilient spirit and enduring curiosity that today has propelled Jimenez-Ramirez to her next big moment as she now vies for the title of California Youth of the Year, the highest honor in the state for a Boys and Girls Club teen.

“The club is my home away from home. I can be here and let my imagination just go,” Jimenez-Ramirez said. “I have this daily boost of dopamine knowing that I’m coming here and it just helps me out. It’s really important to me in that way because it helps me be a better person.”

Jimenez-Ramirez credits the club for helping her through her hardest struggle when the once-shy youth almost failed out of school due to an undiagnosed learning disability. Once she began middle school, she found herself struggling more with her schoolwork and was overwhelmed academically and emotionally.

Isabella Jimenez-Ramirez poses with friends, family and Boys and Girls Club of San Marcos staff at the San Diego County Youth of the Year Ceremony on Mar.12, 2024. Courtesy photo.

“Academics had become dreadful,” she said. “I wasn’t in the best spot in my life, but as I have grown over the years and leaned into the amazing support system of mentors at the club, what once felt unbearable has now become my unstoppable fuel.”

Fortunately, Jimenez-Ramirez had access to an abundance of academic resources at the club. Thanks to her hard work, help from her mentors and resources to better support her learning style, she was able to finish her seventh-grade year with nearly straight As.

Today, the 17-year-old often spends her time after school at the club’s Teen Center, where she spends time working on homework, chatting with friends, playing Guitar Hero or experimenting with the various machines in the Best Buy Teen Tech Center powered by Sony.

Having been a part of a wide range of programs, Jimenez-Ramirez acknowledges that the skills she’s developed and experiences she’s had with the club have helped her become a confident and well-rounded young adult.

Being a part of the club has also ignited one of Jimenez-Ramirez’s true passions: serving her community.

As an active member of the club’s Leaders-In-Training (L.I.T.) program, she has been able to make an impact both within the club and outside of it in her San Marcos community. She has developed leadership skills through community service, hands-on field trips and special workshops and projects like collaborating with community partners to conduct vaccine outreach and education efforts.

Last summer, Jimenez-Ramirez had the opportunity to work with TrueCare, a local nonprofit healthcare provider, during a paid summer internship as part of the club’s Career Pathways program. The yearlong workforce readiness program helped her develop important workforce readiness skills like interviewing, creating a resume, networking and more.

As she looks to the future, Jimenez-Ramirez plans to spend the next year continuing to explore what she loves. With encouragement from the staff at the Boys and Girls Club, she is forging her own path; but for the moment, she has her sights set on her upcoming high school graduation and potential title of California Youth of the Year.

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