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Gomes shows why he’s up for regional ‘Youth of the Year’

June 2, 2012

Ryan Gomes, left, of Pawtucket, gives a guitar lesson to 6-year-old Chris Brunetti in the music room of the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket.

PAWTUCKET — Sixteen-year-old Ryan Gomes patiently points out the parts of a guitar to 6-year-old Chris Brunetti, while the younger boy balances an instrument that is almost bigger than he is on his lap. “What's this?” asks Gomes, pointing to the neck of the guitar. “What are these?” he asks next, fingering the frets and strumming a few chords. Brunetti supplies the correct answers, smiling back at Gomes with obvious pride.
It's exchanges like this that led to Gomes being selected from four nominees as the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket's 2012 “Youth of the Year.” As of last Wednesday, the sophomore at the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing & Visual Arts advanced to the state level in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Youth of the Year program. As winner of the state contest, Gomes receives a $1,000 college scholarship from the Tupperware Foundation and now has the chance to compete for a $10,000 scholarship at the regional level.
According to Amy Gravell, development officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket, Gomes will represent Rhode Island in the Youth of the Year program's northeast regional competition to be held in July in New York City. He will compete against representatives from 13 other territories, including Europe and Puerto Rico, for the chance to move on to the national competition in September.
In the national event, five regional winners will compete for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's National Youth of the Year, an honor which includes a $15,000 scholarship from Tupperware and installation by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. The Pawtucket Club's Carolina Correa achieved such recognition as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's 2009-2010 National Youth of the Year.
Gravell said that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Youth of the Year recognition is the highest honor a Club member can achieve. Since its inception in 1947, the Youth of the Year program, now sponsored by Tupperware, celebrates youth who have overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments. These nominees, ages 14 to 18, are recognized for service to their Club and community, academic performance and contributions to their family, she said.
Gomes certainly had a few obstacles to overcome as a young boy. After his father, who hadn't been involved in his life very much, passed away, and his mother became ill, Gomes moved from his native Canaan, Maine at the age of 7 to Pawtucket to live with his aunt, Natalina Gomes. He was raised primarily by his aunt, who also has a son, Eddie, of the same age.
Gomes said his aunt, who is his father's sister, was “really involved” in his upbringing and urged him to do well in school. “She always encouraged me and my cousin Eddie to do a lot of things and to help out,” he said. His aunt's support, plus self motivation (“I like to be able to push myself,” Gomes states) has led to the quiet and unassuming teen being currently ranked 8th in his high school class at the JMW School.
At the same time, Gomes discovered music, and what started out as a hobby has turned into something of a part-time business and perhaps even a future career. Gomes plays guitar, piano and drums, having had his first music lessons at the Pawtucket Club, where he has been a member for the past six years. He also has become skilled in music production using a computer software program that the Pawtucket Club has installed in its music room.
At the JMW School, Gomes was able to sharpen and build on his musical ability, and is now a member of the prestigious Tri M Music Honor Society. He has also participated in many recitals as a soloist or as a member of the school's jazz ensembles and choral events. “The main reason I got to Walsh (JMW School) was because of the music program here,” noted Gomes. He credits the Pawtucket Club's music teachers, Ben Hughes and Avi David, for giving him a solid foundation.
At the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club, Gomes is known for being a founding member and guitarist of the Key Soldiers, the Club's hip-hop band that won the top national award for best music production during the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's annual Club Tech Digital Arts Festival. This year, in the same competition, Gomes was the festival's regional winner for his original, recorded composition, “Fly Away.”
As he got older, Gomes began giving music lessons to some of the younger club members. “I like teaching the kids,” he says. He and another teen co-founded a business initiative called the “Hip-Rock Workshop.” The two received $1,000 in seed money through a Youth Venture Grant to offer affordable music lessons to underserved children wishing to play guitar, piano, drums, or to learn music production. “I had to write a business plan, present it and defend it,” he said, of the grant process.
Mike Coelho, director of teen programs at the Pawtucket Club, said that Gomes' attitude and involvement in the club helped define him as as one of the top candidates that the staff could recommend for the initial Youth of the Year competition. “He's always positive and willing to help, and to give guidance to the younger members,” Coelho said. “And he's always been involved in music, and now will be even more so through giving lessons.”
Gomes also works part-time at Artee Fabrics in downtown Pawtucket and has racked up an impressive 160 hours of community service activities during the past year, according to Pawtucket Club officials.
As far as his future goes, Gomes said he plans on attending college, where he would like to major in music and business. For now, he's waiting patiently for July and his trip to New York City for the next round of the Youth of the Year competition.


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