By Rhys H.,
Teen Reporter

Do you ever find yourself wondering how you will use your Keystone skills in the future? We caught up with three former Keystoners: Allie Hughes of Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield, Connecticut, David Villapando of Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove, California and Mike Cotela, Jr. from Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut. We asked them about their experiences at the National Keystone Conference, and how it might have influenced their lives. Here is what they had to say.


“Attending a Keystone Conference taught me that even being 15 you can still make a difference and be effective,” said Allie, who attended many Keystone Conferences. “Keystone has taught me leadership skills and it set me up to take on greater leadership roles later in life.” Allie is now a junior at the University of Connecticut and an ROTC cadet. “Being a part of Keystone provided me with life experiences I would otherwise not have had, such as writing for As a creative writing major, I reflect upon this experience and the skills I learned, all the time.”


While writing for, Allie met fellow Keystoner, David Villapando. “Keystone gave me the knowledge and experience to handle all the responsibilities of life,” David said. It also gave him professional experience which he uses as a Library Media Assistant for the Anaheim School District. The most important lesson David learned by attending Keystone Conferences was to network and build relationships. “I kept in contact with those who were still a part of the program, and those I met along the way.”


Mike Cotela, Jr. enjoys the unique privilege of attending a Keystone Conference as both a Keystoner and a Keystone Advisor, as he is now the Unit Director at his Boys & Girls Club. “The biggest lesson I learned from Keystone was how to be a leader. I knew in order to gain the reward of attending a conference, I had to be responsible,” Mike said. “Attending a conference made me get out of my own community. I had friends growing up who never left town. I was able to travel the country, able to make friends. It taught me how to network, reach out, how to keep in touch.” Mike’s biggest piece of advice for conference attendees is something he learned first-hand, “You get out of Keystone what you put into it.”


All three Keystone Alumni agreed on one thing, that being part of the Keystone program was life-changing. “If it wasn’t for Keystone, I have no idea where I would be right now,” David said. “It made everything in life worth it, it helped give me that rock to fall back on, and it gave me support and comfort.” At the end of their interviews, Allie and Mike both had one final statement, “I love Keystone.” We have to admit, we do, too.

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