Military kids will shape the next generation of leaders and it’s important that they are supported and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
When people describe me, I hope they use the term “Military Child.” When people think of the military, they likely think of discipline, dedication, and honor. When you think of a child, a kid is fun, loving, and adventurous. Put both of these words together, and you will get a unique and special individual who will shape the world.
While special, being a military child is no easy experience. I grew up on a military base and while I was immensely proud of my father who served in the U.S. National Guard, it was tough not having him around for the small and big moments of my childhood – from watching a movie on the weekend to overcoming your first real teenage heartbreak. With COVID-19, military-connected youth and their families also face a unique set of challenges, with many of those existing challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
But, while being a military kid is tough, you also develop the resilience needed to surmount challenges and be prepared for anything life throws at you. At my Boys & Girls Clubs of America-affiliated Youth Center on Kirtland Air Force Base, I learned how to be resilient and face adversity with grace. I learned that obstacles aren’t something that prohibit progress, but something that allows for progress and personal growth.
When I was a child, I was diagnosed with a hearing impairment that would eventually prohibit me from pursuing my dreams to follow in my dad’s military footsteps. Although I was disappointed, my resiliency wouldn’t allow me to give up.
My Youth Center introduced me to STEM, and I was able to participate in activities, from engineering to chemistry experiments, that helped build my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. During a field trip to the Office of Medical Investigations, I discovered a love for forensic science and am now pursuing this career pathway at New Mexico State University!
Thanks to my Youth Center, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with professionals in STEM fields and serve as a leader and mentor at their STEM Center of Innovation, which opened in 2018. Funded by Raytheon Technologies, the STEM Centers of Innovation provide military-connected youth with access to advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration, and help military youth develop their STEM and critical thinking skills. Through this type of programming, consistency and continuity are brought to military-connected kids’ lives.
My Youth Center experience has been the foundation of my life; it has helped shape me into the strong young lady and leader that I am today. They’ve opened endless doors and opportunities, allowed me to meet lifelong, supportive friends, encouraged me to always strive for my dreams and be a proud military youth.
Each November, we celebrate Military Family Appreciation Month, and especially this year, I’m feeling extra grateful for my path. Military kids will shape the next generation of leaders and it’s important that they are supported and have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. If there’s a special military kid or family in your life, please remember to show them your appreciation this month.