SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast announced in late March that 17-year-old Ana Gonzalez of Santa Ana was selected as Orange County Youth of the Year.

The honor recognizes a student between the ages of 14 to 18 who demonstrates academic achievement, leadership skills, and serve to the community.

Gonzalez received a scholarship of $5,000 from Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast and an additional $6,000 from the Orange County Area Council for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Next week, Gonzalez will travel to Sacramento to compete for California’s Youth of the Year.

Gonzalez earned a 4.0+ GPA at her high school while she remained involved with clubs, student council and attended college courses at a nearby community college. After school, Gonzalez helps her mom watch her younger sibling and also helps her clean homes on weekends. Gonzalez told Spectrum News 1 that she decided at a very young age to focus in school so she can help her family.

“I always saw education as a way to escape poverty because I believe with higher education, you’re able to have more opportunities and more opportunities to succeed,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez credits her father, Pedro, as her number one motivator.

“He has two jobs. He starts his first job at 9 a.m. and then he goes onto 3 pm. His second job is from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. I think seeing my dad work so hard makes me feel like not trying hard in school would not be an option. I feel like his hard work should be seen and portrayed through not only myself, but through my siblings,” said Gonzalez.

Her mentors at Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana helped her apply for colleges and financial aid.

“We believe that ensuring students like Ana to have a mentor in life that can help them in the process to go to college, to explore college and to eventually attend college is critically important,” said Travis Whitten, Chief Philanthropy Officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast.

Whitten is responsible for building relationships with partners in the community who make investments in the club and its students.

“We are very proud that Ana is not only our Boys and Girls Club’s Youth of the Year, but the Orange County Youth of the Year. She will now travel to Sacramento next week to compete at the state level to compete against other students from around California,” said Whitten.

Gonzalez recently learned she got into two universities, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley. So with her excitement about the competition aside, she has an important decision to make and it just so happens to be one she has worked towards all her life.

Check out the full story shared online by Spectrum News 1.