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White Plains Names Ricardo Martinez Youth of Year

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- When Ricardo Martinez, 17, heard the Youth Bureau selected him as the 2011 Youth of the Year, he thought it would be a nice addition to his resume. However, once he got to city hall and accepted the plaque from Mayor Thomas Roach, Martinez said he started to feel like being picked out of city of nearly 60,000 was an honor.

“I was very excited to receive the award,” said Martinez. “When I got to the city council and the mayor and everyone was there, I was like, ‘It’s a big deal.’”

Martinez has amassed more than 300 hours of community service while volunteering with the ACE after-school tutoring program at the Youth Bureau, assisting with a Saturday chess and homework academy for young men at Eastview Middle School, and presiding over the White Plains High School’s Midnight Run Club, which provides food and clothing to homeless people in New York City.

“We go get toiletries and essentials, pack lunches and then go to New York City to distribute them to homeless people. Some of these people have been out on the street for three weeks, so it really helps,” said Martinez. “I do these things just because I want something nice to be done. Somebody has to do it.”

Youth Bureau Executive Director Frank Williams said Martinez’s work with elementary schoolers in the Kids Excel and After School Connection stood out.

“He is an ambassador for young people in our community,” said Williams.

Last summer, Martinez worked at the New York City Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, where the White Plains teenager helped field phone calls from Spanish speakers and assisted with community events, including Dominican and Italian Heritage celebrations.

“Every time that I think in a different language or dream in a different language it’s like diving into a different culture,” said Martinez, who speaks Spanish, English, Italian and French, and is learning Japanese “on the side.”

Martinez, who is a senior at White Plains High School, hopes to study language at Middlebury College next fall.

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