Jose Duarte, a 15 year old sophomore at Moffat County High School, was honored Saturday during Cowboy Christmas as the 2012 Boys and Girls Club of Craig's Youth of the Year. Duarte has been attending the Boys and Girls Club since he was 10 and currently serves as a junior staff member.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Jose Duarte, a 15 year old sophomore at Moffat County High School, was honored Saturday during Cowboy Christmas as the 2012 Boys and Girls Club of Craig's Youth of the Year. Duarte has been attending the Boys and Girls Club since he was 10 and currently serves as a junior staff member.

Cowboy Christmas a success once again

Jose Duarte steals show as Youth of the Year

Quotable...

“He gets involved and he gets along with all kinds of kids, but he has a knack for seeking out the shy ones and making them feel welcome,” she said. “When we talk about making an investment in our community, he’s it.”

Dana Duran, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Craig, about Jose Duarte as the organization’s 2012 Youth of the Year.

What has become an annual holiday tradition once again failed to disappoint for the hundreds who attended Saturday’s Cowboy Christmas.

In addition to featuring a live band and dinner by Brothers Custom Processing, the event, which serves as the primary fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, netted tens of thousands through ticket sales and live and silent auctions.

The night also featured awards for Yampa Valley Bank and Zach Allen, which were honored as the 2012 Boys & Girls Club of Craig’s Business of the Year and Volunteer of the Year, respectively.

Yet, considering funds raised by Cowboy Christmas benefit so many local youths it was fitting that the show was stolen by a true product of the organization.

Jose Duarte, a 15-year-old sophomore at Moffat County High School, has been attending the Boys & Girls Club of Craig since he was 10.

An avid soccer player, a volunteer since eighth grade and a junior staff member for almost two years, Duarte currently leads a lot of gym activities for the organization.

But Duarte does a lot more than just sit in the gym to moderate games, said Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Dana Duran.

“He gets involved and he gets along with all kinds of kids, but he has a knack for seeking out the shy ones and making them feel welcome,” she said. “When we talk about making an investment in our community, he’s it.”

In recognition of his dedication to the organization and Craig’s young people, Duarte was honored Saturday as the 2012 Boys & Girls Club of Craig’s Youth of the Year.

But Duarte’s life path has not been an easy one.

When he was 8 years old living in Scottsbluff, Neb., Duarte’s parents got divorced.

For a long time, Duarte thought his parents' split was his fault and so he withdrew from friends, school and activities.

His father ultimately won custody of Duarte, his younger brother and younger sister, and moved the family to Craig.

It was while navigating his way through being a new kid in a small town that he discovered the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

During his speech Saturday, Duarte explained how the organization has been a positive influence in his life.

“One day I went to Dana’s office and asked if I could borrow $40 because I had an away soccer game and didn’t have any money to eat at any of the restaurants,” Duarte said. “She said, ‘Of course, I want you to do the thing that you love.’

“At the end of that day, I went to her car and found an envelope with a sticky note that said, ‘I believe in you.’ That day I felt like I had an actual home — a club kid, a volunteer, a staff member and a successful teenager.”

As the 2012 Youth of the Year, Duarte will be entered into a contest with other Youths of the Year winners across the state for an opportunity to win a college scholarship.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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