Lilainea Spurlock of Rio Rancho is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Southwest Regional Youth of the Year. Gary Herron photo.

The Schumann Boys & Girls Club on Sundt Road wasn’t built around Lilainea “Laine” Spurlock, but the recent Rio Rancho High School graduate has built her life around the club.

One of 16 finalists in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Southwest Regional Youth of the Year competition, she has spent most of her young life hanging out at the club, initially being mentored by the older kids, and then turning that around and mentoring the younger kids. Even as she’s a freshman doing online studies at the University of New Mexico, she’s not done with her work at the club.

“Boys & Girls Club has been a big part of my life. I’ve been part of Boys & Girls Club for 13 years — I started when I was 5,” the daughter of Carrie Spurlock said. “I guess I’m famous, you could say. I’ve done a lot of community service.”

Those efforts included feeding the homeless, getting duffel bags for foster kids, starting a community garden, etc.

“We want to teach the youth and the teens of the community that they can do better,” she said. “They can give back; they can grow and be influencers in the community.”

She said her grandparents, Richard and Gloria Spurlock, also of Rio Rancho, have had a big impact in her life.

“I’ve been here (at the B&G Club) almost every single day since graduation,” she said. “I’ve been working over the summer here, for the school program. Instead of after-school, we do all-day school … completely virtual stuff.

“We can’t give one-on-one schooling, but we’re more like tutors,” she explained. “I work with fourth- and fifth-graders, so almost every day I relive my fourth- and fifth-grade years. … It’s really interesting to (not only) see them after school, but to actually be involved in their everyday school life.”

In her school life, she’s taking five classes, majoring in biology and criminology.

During her education, Spurlock began at Stapleton Elementary, and then Rio Rancho Middle School before Rio Rancho High School.

She recalled her most-influential teachers: “In elementary school, I had Miss (Amy) Whittenberg; she was my third-grade teacher. She just taught me how to be myself and really taught me how bright I am as a student.

“Then, my fourth-grade teacher was Miss Folk; she kind of helped me get into the gifted program,” Spurlock recalled. “She also showed me how I really am smart.”

Whittenberg, still teaching at Stapleton, said Spurlock was a wonderful student.

“I say she was wonderful because of her heart and her personality,” Whittenberg said. “She was always making me and the other students in the class laugh. She didn’t care what others thought of her; she always treated everyone with kindness and respect, and therefore received the same treatment from her peers.”

Spurlock was also an academically excellent student, Whittenberg said.

“Laine was always on track with what we were doing in the classroom, turned her homework in on time and never missed an assignment,” she continued.

In middle school, Spurlock said, Stephen Gabaldon was her eighth-grade history teacher.

“He really inspired me — I really like history,” she said. “I never paid attention to history; he really made it more interesting.”

On the road to being selected as the Southwest Regional Youth of the Year, she was named the New Mexico State Youth of the Year in May. She embodies leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles, according to a news release from the B&G Club. In competing for the regional title, Spurlock gave a speech, wrote essays and was interviewed about her club experience, along with obstacles she has overcome — she was abused in a relationship — and her goals.

She has secured $49,500 in scholarships.

“I’m taking all the small steps to get better right now,” she said. “I see myself as a forensic pathologist in 10 years.”

“It’s definitely depressing, for sure,” she said of her preferred profession.

Her passion for it comes in being able to give families answers about what happened to their loved one, she said. She was inspired to pursue the career after finding “True Crime Daily” on YouTube.

B&G Club will remain a part of her life.

“B&G Club gave me so much to carry with me in my life. I want to give back to them as much as possible,” Spurlock said. “So even though I’m going to be out, looking at dead bodies somewhere else, I’m always going to be tied to a Boys & Girls Club in some way, shape or form.”