“I want youth to see how many opportunities they have and how the Club can impact their lives.”
My experience at state was the start of something I will never forget. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I was intimidated thinking the other competitors would be very focused on the competition and not very open to being friends. But when I arrived for the first dinner with all of us together, I realized that more than anything the purpose of the competition was to be a fun, positive learning experience. We did some prep where we practiced our speech and interview questions with one another, but a lot of what we did was fun. We went to Gameworks in Seattle, rode in a limo to Kerry Park, and all got frozen yogurt together. Everyone was so kind and we were all friends more than anything – this made the competition itself a lot less nerve wracking than it could have been.
The Advanced Leadership Institute (ALI) was a big convention for all youth, both traditional and military, who competed and won at the state level or higher. We had sessions with Youth of the Year sponsors Disney and Toyota, and some sessions were ran by the 2017-2018 Youth of the Year cohort. The past winners talked about their experiences and what their lives were like now, which was very interesting to hear. What I took away from it all was that even if you don’t win, you are still a big part of YOY for next year’s candidates and you have to see yourself as a role model for others, because that’s what you will be.
My regional experience was a just as great. We arrived in San Diego right from Atlanta (where the Advanced Leadership Institute took place) so we were pretty tired. Even still, San Diego was so beautiful and I absolutely loved experience. Out of all the competitions, I think this was my favorite. The atmosphere there right by the ocean was so nice, and winning made the experience even better for me.
My prep for both of these competitions was basically the same. I memorized my speech by repeating it both in my head and out loud. I also would write out my essay, because that really helped it stick in my mind. The days leading up to the competition, I would recite my speech in myself in the mirror to see how my hand gestures and facial movements looked. I would also practice interview questions that could potentially be asked.
My vision for this year as both Washington and the Pacific Region’s Military Youth of the Year is to get more kids involved in Boys & Girls Clubs, specifically in my own at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I want youth to see how many opportunities they have and how the Club can impact their lives. I also want to pursue my vision for America’s youth, which is to help homeless teens, even if it’s in a small way like setting up a clothing drive in my school or club for clothes and other life necessities.
I feel that this entire competition has changed me so much. I am a lot more careful of what I say and do and how I present myself to the world because being a part of this competition has showed me how much it matters. I’ve always known who I wanted to be, but Youth of the Year has shown me the power of how you present yourself and what an impact that makes on your life. I think if I stayed shy my whole life and never made an effort to put a smile on my face and be more open about myself, I never would have gotten this far.
Now that the competition is over for me, I can’t help but miss the entire experience. It truly was incredible and is definitely one of the best things, if not the best, I have done in my life as of now.