The rock-star treatment is well-deserved: Contreras is the first Youth of the Year honoree from Tracy to compete at the state level.
“I’ve known Nick for a while,” said Kelly Wilson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy. “I’ve seen him develop. I heard many wonderful, positive things (about him). He emerged into a leader and a role model. He’s a kid with so much potential.
“So proud of him,” she added. “Nick is awesome. We want him to go all the way (to nationals).”
Contreras, 18, was introduced to the club 10 years ago by his mother, who was looking for a safe haven where he could learn and grow.
He was mentored there by Steve Nunez, who never gave up on a boy who was then rather shy. Contreras has followed in Nunez’s footsteps, becoming a strong role model for younger children in his own right.
“I feel like my mentor, Steve,” Contreras said, sitting in the South-West Park Elementary School gymnasium. “I can teach them what I learned. I learned I could be safe there; how to trust people; and how to have fun playing with other kids. I love helping (kids).”
The speech that punched Contreras a ticket to the state competition Thursday, April 19, talked about his childhood living in a housing project with a strong single mother and five siblings. He also talked about how the South-West Park Boys & Girls Club changed his life, and helps him make a difference to other kids.
“When I figure they have been helped and they have a smile on their face … you know you did your job,” he said. “The Boys & Girls Clubs made me become great and taught me about my future — that education was important and college is something that will help me my whole life.”
The Tracy High School senior said he planned to attend Las Positas College and transfer to University of California, San Diego, to study fire science. He said his dream was to become a firefighter.
Though Contreras said he was excited and a little nervous about the competition in Sacramento, the competition wasn’t his answer when asked what he was looking forward to most. That was room service.
Club staff members said that lighthearted humor and positive outlook was what had made Contreras a favorite at the clubs.
“He’s always been a very good kid,” said unit director Lisa Frymyer. “Always smiling, always positive, … you’d never know if he had any problems. He has the best attitude. I love being around him, because he makes me keep wanting to do my job. He motivates me.”
The first time Contreras will give his speech in public, outside of a competition setting, is at the Tracy City Council meeting Tuesday, April 17. The speech is part of a commemoration ceremony marking April as Tracy Boys & Girls Clubs month.
Frymyer, who has heard Contreras deliver his speech before, was quickly convinced Contreras had a shot.
“Once I heard him and I saw him in action, I knew he’s got it,” she said. “I was so proud of him.”
It’s a speech that demands attention, according to those who have seen it, with the first few lines sharing a difficult childhood.
In less than a week, Contreras will deliver his captivating story against the other eight top competitors in California, and possibly move a step closer to becoming a national champion.
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