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McAllen native Alejandra Llanos, the 2023 Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year, hopes to take her life experiences to better serve her community in the future through civic engagement and the financial side of policy building.
The award that goes through a competitive local, state and regional level recognized Llanos’ passion for community leadership through her experiences.
Entering Boys & Girls Clubs of America reluctantly when she was 7, Llanos said it became a second home for her due to the positive and uplifting atmosphere she experienced.
Through the guidance and encouragement from staff and mentors, she said it helped her come out of her shell and thus sparked the light for her to step up and be a leader.
Attending Nikki Rowe High School, Llanos was a part of Business Professionals of America, the debate club, accounting UIL and was the student body president her senior year.
Currently a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin planning on studying accounting, Llanos said being raised by her single mother from Reynosa gives her a lot of her inspiration knowing her mom came to the United States for better opportunities for her.
“When I left for Austin, I told her I felt bad for leaving and I felt bad for doing stuff that she wasn’t able to do,” she said. “But she told me that is the reason why she came here. Because she wanted me to have better opportunities than she did. And it just motivates me to continue pursuing even more.”
Navigating the complex process of taxes and finances with her mom is where she found her passion for accounting. Seeing how accountants helped her mom made her want to do the same ever since the seventh grade.
With the enthusiasm of accounting, Llanos was introduced to the world of public policy and advocacy. Llanos found it interesting and plans to have a future career combining both.
“I actually want to work on the financial side of policy,” she said. “So changing policy for communities, providing them funding to do their work. It’s expensive and just understanding the numbers that go behind all of it is something that I want to do.”
This background was key in her winning the prestigious Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. Winning the award came with a $50,000 scholarship which she plans to use for graduate school and a brand new car which allows her to have a form of transportation around Austin.
“I met so many like-minded youth who cared about the same things I did, who were passionate about the Boy & Girls Club and the resources it provides to the community,” Llanos said.
Currently looking to get involved at the Austin Boys & Girls Clubs of America, her other short-term goal is to not be stressed out so much in her first semester in college worrying about grades.
“It’s hard to get out of a mentality that all my grades have to be perfect and that everything I do has to be perfect,” Llanos said. “So I’m just trying to be okay with not doing everything so perfect. So that’s like my short-term goal right now that I’m still learning.”
With her long-term career goal already set, she added she just wants to be a role model for her community especially as a first generation Mexican-American woman.
“I want other girls to look at me and I want them to know that they can do whatever they want to do,” she said. “It’s possible to move, get out of home and achieve greater things because that is the reason why our parents came here, for us to do better and be successful in our lives.”
Attending Texas and being around new people and different cultures, Llanos said she’s fascinated with the size of the school and the city of Austin. She encourages other Valley students to just “go for it” and not be afraid of failure.
“I was one (person that feared failure) and it really did stop me from doing a lot of things,” she said. “It’s hard to overcome those thoughts but those thoughts need to be overcome. You’re doubting yourself for things you haven’t even attempted.
“So don’t be afraid of going into something not knowing what you’re gonna get out of it because the worst that can happen is that you fail and you just move on and you go on to the next thing.”
This story is the final in a series of stories observing National Hispanic Heritage Month.