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Six Regional Finalists Selected to Compete for Military Youth of the Year

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has selected six regional military youth finalists to compete for the title of “2019 National Military Youth of the Year.” This annual competition recognizes military youth for their relentless spirit, community service, strong moral character, and academic success.

Each of the Military Youth of the Year regional finalists will receive a $10,000 scholarship, renewable for up to four years for a total of $40,000. The National Military Youth of the Year winner is announced at an awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 15, 2019 and receives a one-time $20,000 scholarship.

Meet the six finalists emerging from local, state and regional competitions to vie for the honor of National Military Youth of the Year.

Arianna Foster

Representing Tinker AFB Youth Program in Oklahoma, Arianna has been a member of the Tinker Youth program, a Boys & Girls Club affiliate, for 12 years. Her passions include mentoring foster children in her area, volunteering to feed the homeless and spending time with cancer patients at a local cancer facility. She is a Captain Inspector in the Air Force JROTC.

Christian Ashford

From Joint Base Lewis-McChord CYS Services in Washington State, Christian volunteers with the Hillside Youth Center and established the first Cultural Diversity Club at his high school. Christian said his Youth Center has served as a support system through several moves, which meant changing schools and gaining and losing friends as a military teen.

Dasia Bandy

Dasia has been a member in the NSA Norfolk Naval Shipyard Youth Center in Virginia for 11 years. As a military teen, Dasia is part of the Drug Education for Youth Program and a Teen Coordinator for the annually hosted Promoting Healthy Active Teens’ Conference. Dasia hopes to attend medical school in the future.

Desha Jenkins

Over the years, Desha has provided over 400 hours of volunteering at various Youth Centers. Representing Joint Base Andrews Youth Program in Maryland, Desha is a mentor for SMART Girls, a program giving guidance and direction to young girls. Desha has also coordinated impactful events, including the Hurricane Florence Fundraiser, and aims to be of service to others as a role model and humanitarian.

Isabella Mollison

Isabella, representing the overseas region, is part of the Yokota AB Youth Program in Japan. She plans and hosts the Yokota Keystone Club for military youth on base. She hopes to work as a diplomat in the future, and demand change for injustices in society. Dedicated to learning about policy and law, she achieved the AP Scholar with Honor Award. Isabella has also made a six-year commitment to the Civil Air Patrol, leading to a promotion to Lt. Colonel.

Lauro Melendez

Representing USAG Fort Knox CYS Services, Kentucky, Lauro was recognized as Fort Knox’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer in April 2018. English is Lauro’s second language, but that didn’t stop him from enrolling in three AP courses. In addition, Lauro competes as a varsity student-athlete in multiple sports. Finally, Lauro advocates for classes in SMART MOVES, teaching self-defense and situational awareness in schools and teen centers to help lower the rate of youth deaths due to gun violence.

Beginning in 1947, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, or B&GCA, has celebrated young people, ages 14 to 18, through the Youth of the Year premier recognition program. The B&GCA Military Youth of the Year Program was established in 2013 to recognize outstanding military teens in affiliated military youth programs on installations worldwide.

The winner of the Military Youth of the Year will go on to compete for the overall Boys & Girls Club’s National Youth of the Year award held in the Fall of this year in Washington, D.C. The recipient of the National Youth of the Year award receives a $25,000 scholarship, renewable for four years up to $100,000.

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