DES MOINES, Iowa — Overcoming hardships to win a big award is an honor Sierra Pilate recently celebrated: she was named Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa Youth of the Year.
"It was fun," Pilate said. "Very surprising. I wasn't ready for it."
To compete for the award, she had to prepare for one hour each week for more than four months. That time was used to create a speech and write essays with a mentor.
The purpose of the speech and essays is to show those who judge the event that each contestant is able to speak publicly. The ability to do that requires confidence, something Pilate says she gained from becoming a part of the Boys & Girls Club.
After moving to Iowa from Atlanta, that confidence was needed.
"We originally moved because my mom wasn't feeling well and her family lived in Iowa," Pilate said. "When we got here we found out she had breast cancer. And they were also doing online schooling so it was hard for me to connect my emotions at home and work with my family."
The organization showed her the importance of mentorship, something staff members like Laurie Jeffries noticed.
"She's like always everyone's biggest hype man," Jefferies said. "Like 'Yeah we can do this.' She's a good role model, if she does it her peers follow her."
And along with being a leader, Pilate said she enjoys music. She said her recent win motivated her even more to continue working towards her path of combining music with mentorship to help those who are younger than her.
"I plan to go into college majoring in music education and hopefully minoring in public health so I can have a way to connect with the kids more," Pilate said.
She has another event this coming Tuesday to compete at the State Youth of the Year event. If she wins there, she can go on to compete in regionals and if she wins that she will head to nationals.
If she wins both levels, she could win $70,000 in scholarships.