Every year, the Outstanding Young Man and Young Woman (OYMYW) of the Year program recognizes local, young leaders who exhibit exceptional academic success and community service. The highly-competitive program starts off by naming 16 high school students from across the Phoenix metro area as council district winners — and eventually announces two overall winners.
This year, Jaime Perez, who lives in District 7, checked off all the right boxes and was chosen as the Overall Outstanding Young Man for the city of Phoenix. Now, he will have access to a community of professionals, citywide programs and a $2,000 cash award.
Perez, a recent high school graduate, attended University High School on the campus of Tolleson Union High School, where he mastered rigorous curriculum, participated in extracurricular activities and took on leadership roles.
To be considered a viable candidate for the program, Perez said community engagement was key.
“You have to be someone who is able to portray some community service you’ve done; someone who has been able to work with the city of Phoenix; or contribute to the local communities,” Perez said.
Elena Sobampo, finance program teacher and FBLA (future business leaders of America) advisor at Tolleson Union High School, is someone who can attest to the positive impact Perez has had on his community and those in it.
“He got involved in my financial services program and completed the program. Then he became an intern. I placed him at our district office — directly working with our chief financial officer and our superintendent and board. He just fit in so well. So seamless,” Sobampo said.
“Giving back is not only just giving back into a community service. It’s about service learning and integrating with the community. I think that Jaime really honed that and did so well.”
Sobampo also noted Perez was a particularly good ambassador when he was appointed FBLA officer for the state of Arizona.
Perez, who learned the ins and outs of business throughout Sobampo’s finance education courses and his involvement with her FBLA program, said Sobampo was a major influence in his life.
“Every single time that I’ve had to partake in a new challenge or I’ve been faced with a new obstacle, she’s been there to guide me; been there to support me. She’s been my rock for the past four years that I’ve been in high school,” Perez said.
Now, Perez plans to attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the fall, where he wants to major in international studies. He said he plans to return to the Valley and pursue a master’s degree at Arizona State University.
Sobampo believes programs that invest in local scholars — like that one of the OYMYW — empower the community.
“I think it really provides students with an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and just really put to test their skills. I’m just super excited for (Jaime). I think that he’s going to pay it forward,” Sobampo said.
“We need more people like him that have that drive and that energy and that enthusiasm to go and just be an agent of change somewhere else and then bring that back home and make that even bigger.”