The Military Youth of the Year honor is a distinct component of the National Youth of the Year program. It recognizes a Club member served on a military installation who has overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments. To earn this honor, Club youth advance through local, state and regional competitions. After the Military Youth of the Year is named at an elite ceremony in Washington, D.C., in September, he or she advances to join the five regional Youth of the Year finalists from traditional Clubs to compete for the National Youth of the Year title. Military Youth of the Year honorees are living proof that great futures start at Boys & Girls Clubs.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, RaShaan Allen lost his home, his neighborhood, his school and his best friend, leaving what he says is a permanent hole in his heart. Today, it is clear his heart is healing, even if the hole will never completely disappear. RaShaan credits Club and extracurricular activities with helping him grow and heal. He served as co-president of the Club Youth Council and as Army Family Action Plan delegate. At school, RaShaan played eight varsity sports and captained six of those teams. He also served as president of both his freshman and senior classes. He was elected governor at Kentucky Boys State, a program focused on state government. He is now at Western Kentucky University, where he plans to major in political science.
Brianna Sheperd has spent her life on military installations around the world, always feeling like the new kid. Through all the moves, a sense of continuity came from her immediate family, Boys & Girls Clubs and her dream of a college education. As president of both Keystone Club and her school’s Student 2 Student organization, which helps military kids adjust to a new school, she developed and implemented joint projects. This fall, Brianna is once again a new kid in a new school, attending Stanford University, where she plans to major in engineering on a full four-year scholarship.
From an early age, Daj’zhane Radford-Walton exhibited a sense of responsibility beyond her years when parental deployments – often both parents at the same time – left her in charge of her younger sister. Before long, Daj’zhane brought that same sense of responsibility to Boys & Girls Clubs. She led several major Club projects, such as coordinating lunch for a college days event, directing activities for Worldwide Day of Play and reorganizing the Club during a renovation to better accommodate youth and programs. Now in her freshman year at the University of Arizona, Daj’zhane is focused on obtaining a good education to ensure she reaches her goal of becoming a surgeon.
After Brandon Shields taught his mother to use FaceTime and iChat, they were able to enjoy talking with and looking at each other when she’s deployed. Brandon soon realized he could help the kids in his Club connect with their parents in the same way. When the Club received a $10,000 technology grant, Brandon – the Club’s go-to tech guy – developed a proposal for turning the teen lounge into a cutting-edge computer lab. Brandon not only set up the lab and installed the equipment, he also trained Club youth to use the new computers to talk with deployed family members. Melding his technology expertise with his love of art, Brandon plans to major in graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University before earning a graduate business degree.
Stephanie Ramer has wanted to be a physician since she got a Barbie stethoscope at age 4. In pursuit of her dream, she took AP and honors science classes, sought out physician mentors, volunteered at a local hospital and was supported through it all by her Boys & Girls Clubs. She served her Club as Keystone secretary, mentor and Air Force Teen Council member. Stephanie also developed her own program, Notes of Hope, and recruited members of the Keystone Club to create and deliver cards to cancer patients. As a college freshman at Penn State University, she remains focused on her dream, with plans to major in neuroscience/pre-med.
Xavier Thompson is shooting for the stars – literally – with plans to major in astrophysics through a combined Occidental College-California Institute of Technology program. His commitment to community service and good grades, combined with a positive attitude suggest he’ll travel as far as he’d like to go. A dedicated Club member, Xavier’s leadership experience led to his selection as one of eight teens from around the world to serve on the elite Air Force Teen Council. In 2012, he was selected by his school’s athletic director to lead the student athletes who helped host the 2012 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field Team prior to the London Olympic Games. For a young man with his head in the stars, he has his feet firmly on the ground.
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