Many of us try not to worry about what others think of us, but 17-year-old Felix Hernandez is actually quite proud of what people think of him.

“People I know describe me as loyal,” Felix said. “Whenever I’m in a team situation, I put that team first. My father was always the one who told me if you’re going to do something, do it right. So if I joined a group, I would do it right till the very end.”

His loyalty has been a huge asset to Community Youth Connection (CYC), a Center for Human Services (CHS) community service and leadership program run by youth to make a positive impact on our community. Members are teenagers who’ve received services through Hutton House, CHS’ youth shelter, and from the general community. CYC has spearheaded projects like water bottle distributions at local parks in the summer, an animal shelter donation drive, and college tours for its members.

Felix’s friend at Modesto High School introduced him to the group in 2016 and he’s been hooked ever since. When he was a high school senior, he served as public relations officer.

“CYC is different because when you get into other kinds of community service, you ask an adult what to do, you do it, then you leave. CYC is family. My favorite part is it’s youth run. We go to the youth and ask them what can we do and how can we do it?”

The project he’s most proud of is a billboard campaign to promote sobriety to high school students. Their message — “Intoxication leads to no graduation.” The campaign drew attention from the media and their peers.

“I wanted to start a movement with that billboard and I accomplished that goal,” Felix said.

Now a freshman at San Jose State University, Felix often comes back to Modesto for CYC meetings on Fridays. He feels this is his chance to help guide CYC’s up-and-coming leaders.

“CHS and CYC built leadership skills in me. I always thought I had them, but with CHS, I was pushed to use them. CHS empowered many of us to be leaders.”