Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

nicholasofficialIn a ceremony last month, the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance honored Red Bank Regional High School senior Nicholas Villalobos-Best at the organization’s 16th Annual Recognition Celebration.

The Union Beach resident (pictured at center) was among the more than 20 students recognized at the ceremony; a group of teens and pre-teens who, in the words of NJ YMCA State Alliance President Diane Mann, “have demonstrated their character values by volunteering in a variety of ways to serve others through the Y.”

Nicholas was nominated for this accolade by YMCA Community Outreach Director Joann Rountree, who supervised him in the Teen Achievers Initiative, a college readiness club. She explained that Nicholas mentored his peers and always volunteered for activities, including speaking at aYMCA Board Meeting and fundraiser events.

Nicholas was first introduced to the YMCA as a grateful recipient of their Family Success Center.  Four years ago, Nicholas and his family lost everything in Super Storm Sandy. The YMCA’s Family Success Center, along with other charities, helped his family find the resources and networks to assist in their recovery effort.

“Nicholas’ enthusiasm, mannerism, eagerness to learn and his drive were amazing,” said Ms. Rountree.

“He also did a great deal of volunteering in his community and church.”

“Our philosophy is that we are here on earth to love everybody and help one another,” said Nicholas, whose spiritual family of community volunteers includes his father Rafael V. Best, pastor of the New Hope Church of Keyport.

Through his church, Nicholas has joined his spiritual community in many activities such as fasting 30 hours to fundraise for food to feed the homeless. He guided church youth, and worked on special projects such as a cleanup of the local Ronald McDonald house, and partnered with the New York Relief Bus which distributed clothing and other items to the needy in New York City.

The initial devastation following Sandy proved a very difficult time for Nicholas and his siblings. It even required the children to relocate to an aunt’s home in Texas for months, while his parents began the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.

Despite these great travails, the Villalobos-Best family also experienced the best of humanity as Nicholas stated, “So many people volunteered to help us. Just seeing all the community efforts sparked something in me.”

When the family was reunited, Nicholas’ parents encouraged their children to pay it forward and join the YMCA organization that had assisted them in their most difficult times.

Nicholas is an honor roll student at RBR in the Academy of Engineering. He qualified for membership in the National Technical Honor Society, as well as the Spanish and National honor societies.  He is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Key Club and math tutoring rotation.  He hopes to continue his study of engineering in college to become an environmental engineer using both his academic and social justice skills to benefit society.

This exceptional young man recalled one of his most personally gratifying efforts of successfully tutoring a student to pass math, which he had been failing — adding that “I like to think he will remember that and will help somebody do the same someday. That creates a very nice butterfly effect.”