For Immediate Release — September 27, 2018 | Americas
Jade Fulce: Public Affairs Officer | (571) 372-0604
FORT CAMPBELL, KY — September 27, 2018 — Fort Campbell High School student, Brandon, recently competed as a finalist for the 2018 National Military Youth of the Year sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club and the Department of Defense in Washington D.C.
The Military Youth of the Year program recognizes outstanding youth, like Brandon, who live within the military community. Students are evaluated on service, academic excellence, leadership positions, and participation within their Boys and Girls Club in the community in which they reside. Competitions begin on the local level, then progress to state, regional, and national levels.
“I am very proud of Brandon and his accomplishment," said Dr. Youlanda Washington, the Kentucky Community Superintendent for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Americas Region. "He is a very caring individual who has a giant heart for mankind. He is sincere in his endeavors to live life to the fullest as he demonstrates great leadership.”
Brandon shared that he first heard about the Youth of the Year program in the eighth grade and was interested in applying because he felt he could potentially be a spokesperson for military youth. Brandon believed he possessed many of the morals and characteristics the program tries to foster. However, it was not until his freshman year of high school, that he was eligible to apply for the local competition. During the first competition, Brandon was very nervous and did not know what to expect. He was the runner-up and was a little disappointed I did not win, but he knew he could not give up.
Brandon continued to recall his history with the competition by saying, after a year later, he decided to apply once more for the local Youth of the Year competition, hoping he would be a little more prepared. However, he lost during my sophomore year and came in as the runner-up two years in a row.
“I was sad to be the runner-up again,” said Brandon. “I knew I could not let myself get discouraged. I looked in the mirror and reminded myself that God has a plan for me, and although He may not have intended for me to win my freshman and sophomore year, I knew that He did not want me to give up. With this in my mind as well as in my heart, I decided to apply again in my junior year.”
During his junior year, Brandon transferred high schools and became more involved in extracurricular activities at my new school while becoming the Vice President of the Keystone Club at his youth center. The Keystone Club is a volunteer program to give teens the chance to give back to their club and community. At the club, he worked with his mentor on writing new essays and preparing a new speech for the local competition.When the local competition came around in December of his junior year, he felt prepared and excited. He said gave my best that night, and all my hard work and perseverance paid off.
Brandon was selected as the 2018 Fort Knox Military Youth of the Year and won the 2018 Kentucky State Military Youth of the Year title in March. He progressed through the competition and was named the 2018 Midwest Military Youth of the Year in July in Chicago.
“Personally, I believe this experience has taught me the importance of hard work, determination, and perseverance,” said Brandon. “If I had given up after losing my freshman year or even my sophomore year, I would not have made it this far. God has truly blessed me, and I continue to give all my praise to Him. He has shown me to continue to persevere. James 1:1-2 says Count it all joy, brethren, when you face trials of many kinds, for the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Lastly, one of my favorite quotes explains that one can do anything if they put their heart into it, and I believe that is what made this last competition different for me. I truly can say that I gave it my all!”
To compete nationally, Brandon traveled to Washington D.C. for one week. He made many new friends and created memories to be cherished for a lifetime. One memory that stands out in Brandon’s mind is when he was asked to speak at the Pentagon. He reports that it was an eye-opening and humbling experience to be in the presence of many high ranking officials and military personnel. To know they were all there for the six competitors, to listen to their military youth stories, and support their future endeavors was a remarkable experience for Brandon.
“I had the opportunity to network and met so many wonderful people, including a 3-star general from the Army as well as the Admiral of the Coast Guard,” said Brandon.
While at the Pentagon, Brandon platform speech was about suicide awareness, which he felt like the audience connected with his words and felt he was making a difference.
Based upon Brandon’s experience at the Pentagon, he believes his platform on youth suicide was very well received. In the past, Brandon has helped organize and lead multiple activities to embrace diversity and foster a safe and inclusive environment. He has written articles on bullying for the teen center magazine and has created anti-bullying posters and banners.
Brandon also has plans to work with the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of America’s Smart Move and the Keystone Club at the Fort Campbell Youth Center to help raise awareness of bullying and suicide. At school, he is an active member of the Federation of Christian Athletes, where they made posters to promote positive thoughts and attitudes within our student body. Also, he is currently working closely with his school’s guidance counselor to organize and promote a suicide awareness event for his school. The event's goal is to raise awareness of suicide and to place a spotlight on the importance of building meaningful relationships with people. We should all #bethere for one another Brandon said encouragingly.
“The leadership Brandon is exhibiting in our school in conjunction to his national platform of suicide awareness is remarkable,” said Mrs. Kimberly Butts, the Fort Campbell High School principal. “He is a student who has the unique ability to bring warmth and kindness to all he meets.”
September is designated as Suicide Prevention Month by the Department of Defense. DoDEA supports the DoD initiative and encourages everyone to make it their mission, just as Brandon has, and to #BeThere for one another!