On July 24th, 2018, Washington State Military Youth of the Year Katie Wilton advanced to the National competition by winning Pacific Region Military Youth of the Year in San Diego, California. Katie’s new title was announced at the Youth of the Year gala, where she was awarded a $40,000 college scholarship courtesy of Toyota and Disney, Boys & Girls Clubs of America national partners of the program.
Before Katie competed at the regional level, she won the title of Washington State Military Youth of the Year in late March of 2018. She was selected by a panel of judges with military background based on her sound character, leadership skills, and willingness to give back to her community.
Katie is a member of the Hillside Teen Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Lakewood, Washington, and is entering her senior year at Harrison Preparatory School. She is a member of the Lakewood Youth Council and regularly volunteers at local food banks and local elementary schools. In her spare time, she also keeps bees and sells honey! Katie hopes to attend Columbia University to study biology and pursue a career as a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.
Katie’s teen center advisor, Charissa Lizama, couldn’t contain her excitement when describing the days spent at Boys & Girls Clubs of America Advanced Leadership Institute, followed by Pacific Region Military Youth of the Year. Charissa shared that Katie was able to reconnect with friends she made the previous year during Army’s Youth Leadership Forum, as well as get a valuable insight into BGCA’s national partners’ support of the Youth of the Year program.
In San Diego, Katie competed against six other state finalists who all showcased perseverance, optimism, enthusiasm for their Club and described their favorite Club programs. The finalists also shared difficult details of their personal stories, the obstacles they have overcome, as well as how Boys & Girls Clubs have helped them realize their potential and become outstanding young leaders in their communities.
Katie says she spent a long time preparing for the regional competition, by practicing her speech in front of various community groups, her Club and her high school; as well as writing for FOCUS magazine in July, and giving several local interviews. She shined during her interactions with the judges in San Diego, and she admits that the most challenging question she had to answer was concerning cultural diversity’s contributions to a healthy lifestyle in a given community. Katie met exceptional people throughout her experience, and she is looking forward to getting to know other regional finalists at the next level of competition, when they will vie to become one of five national candidates.
Katie is grateful for every opportunity presented to her through her Youth of the Year journey – she is making friends everywhere she goes thanks to her kind and outgoing personality and the passion she shares with fellow participants for Boys & Girls Clubs. Katie also recognizes how much she has grown over the course of her Youth of the Year journey thus far as a public speaker and she is excited to continue to serve as a youth representative of Boys & Girls Clubs.