Shelton club honors Boy and Girl of Year

KATE RAMUNNI, Connecticut Post
Article Last Updated: 05/03/2008 12:49:12 AM EDT

SHELTON — Both Michael Bocchino and Twiza Mambwe started going to the Boys and Girls Club here eight years ago out of necessity — both youths had working parents who couldn't be home in the afternoon when they got home from school.

But soon the club became a home away from home for the teens, who were honored Friday night with the club's top award — the Boy and Girl of the Year.

"I was shocked and I was overwhelmed," Michael, 17, a junior plumbing student at Emmett O'Brien High School said. "This is a really big thing for me."

"I was really, really happy," said Twiza, also 17, a junior at Shelton High School.

Both have been coming to the club since 2000.

"My dad and mom had to work so they needed baby-sitting for me," Twiza said. But soon the club became much more than a childcare center for the exuberant teen.

"I love the atmosphere," she said. "The kids are nice and the staff is phenomenal — this is the best place to be."

Twiza is the daughter of Bertha Mambwe and the late Francis Mambwe, who passed away five years ago. She has an older brother Kanyanta, 22, a student at Housatonic Community College, and a younger sister, Chota, 14, also a Shelton High School student and club member.

She has participated in many of the club's programs, Twiza said, including the Torch Club and the Keystone Club, both of which foster leadership skills. She also is active in the dance and drama programs, as well as the Smart Moves club, which encourages drug awareness.

She now works at the club with the 6- and 7-year-old members, helping them with homework and other activities.

Her plans include college and medical school, Twiza said.

Michael is the son of Michael and Linda Bocchino. He has been active in the club's basketball program, the Keystone Club and is now working as a counselor for 11- and 12-year-old boys at the club.

"It's lots of fun," he said of his responsibilities. "I probably have more fun working with the kids than I did as just a member.

"Sometimes they can be a pain," he said jokingly, "but it's lots of fun."

The pair was chosen for the honor based on their longevity with the club, the programs they have participated in and their attitudes of sportsmanship, citizenship and maturity, said club director Michael Cotela. "They're outstanding young adults," he said. "They are role models for the little kids and they themselves are really good kids — they're the cream of the crop."

"I'm pretty impressed, a little amazed and very proud," Linda Bocchino said of her son.

"She is a good kid and she deserves this," Bertha Mambwe said of her daughter.