Story   Know Your Military

Navy Teen Chosen as National Military Youth of the Year

Aug. 16, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk

A 17-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia, was selected as the Boys & Girls Club's National Military Youth of the Year last night in a celebration at the National Press Club in Washington.

A girl smiles at the camera.
Military Youth of the Year
Dasia Bandy, the 2019-2020 Boys & Girls Clubs National Military Youth of the Year, attends the 2019 National Military Youth of the Year VIP Event at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2019. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsor the competition to recognize the strength and resilience of military youth.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten, DOD
VIRIN: 190814-M-XW591-003A

Judges chose Dasia Bandy for the award from a group of six finalists. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America have presented their Military Youth of the Year award since 2003. The organization has provided millions of dollars in resources, support, grants and scholarships to military youth and youth programs, according to a club fact sheet.

The military regional winners each received a $10,000 scholarship that's renewable for a four year total of $40,000. 

Bandy also received a one-time $20,000 scholarship, and she will serve a one-year term as the military youth spokesperson for the Defense Department, the military services and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Group of people pose for a photo.
Finalists Photo
The six finalists for the Boys & Girls Clubs Military Youth of the Year Award pose for a group photo with some of the guests in attendance at a VIP event at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2019. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsor the competition to recognize the strength and resilience of military youth.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten, DOD
VIRIN: 190814-M-XW591-002

The six finalists attended a Pentagon ceremony Aug. 14, and each presented their stories of struggles and accomplishments. 

"They are our future," A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said of the finalists during the Pentagon ceremony.

"Each year, our finalists have several characteristics in common: They are purposeful, resilient, determined, persistent, empathetic and passionate about making a difference," she said.

Woman speaks to an audience.
Johnston Speech
A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, addresses the six finalists for the Boys & Girls Clubs Military Youth of the Year Award during the 2019 National Military Youth of the Year VIP Event at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2019. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsor the competition to recognize the strength and resilience of military youth.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten, DOD
VIRIN: 190814-M-XW591-001

The program provides opportunities for others to learn more about military kids, Johnston said, noting that the public doesn’t always understand the challenges that military kids face until they hear them tell their stories. 

"All of them have balanced frequent school changes [while] being the new kid, maintaining old connections and building new ones, learning their new communities, and missing deployed family members," Johnston said of military children’s numerous struggles.

She also paid tribute to the family members of the finalists.

"Without your support, they would not be here. Boys & Girls Clubs of America's National Military Youth of the Year recognition is one of the highest honors that a military youth can achieve. The program celebrates military youth as demonstrated by exemplifying exceptional character, leadership and accomplishment," she said.

"Today," Johnston told the finalists, "we are recognizing each of you for your service to your installation's youth program and your military community, your academic performance and your contributions to your family."

"The six of you represent the military youth programs across the country and around the world," she continued, adding that the six finalists contributed more than 2,100 combined hours of volunteer work in the last year.

The finalists were:

  •  Dasia Bandy, of Norfolk Naval Shipyard Youth Center in Virginia.
  •  Arianna Foster, of Tinker Air Force Base Youth Program in Oklahoma.
  •  Isabella Mollison, representing the overseas division as part of the Yokota Air Base Youth Program in Japan.
  •  Desha Jenkins, of Joint Base Andrews Youth Program in Maryland.
  •  Christian Ashford, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord Child and Youth Services in Washington state.
  •  Lauro Melendez, representing U.S. Army Garrison Fort Knox CYS Services, Kentucky.

Girl speaks to audience.
Bandy Remarks
Dasia Bandy, the 2019-2020 Boys & Girls Clubs National Military Youth of the Year, speaks during the 2019 National Military Youth of the Year VIP Event at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2019. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsor the competition to recognize the strength and resilience of military youth.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. David Staten, DOD
VIRIN: 190814-M-XW591-004A

Bandy will go on to compete against five regional winners in the Boys & Girls Clubs' National Youth of the Year competition, "where one outstanding young person is named Boys & Girls Clubs of America's national teen spokesperson," according to the organization's website.

"The National Youth of the Year is a role model, leader and advocate for the nearly 4 million youth served by Boys & Girls Clubs each year, and all of America's young people," according to a statement on the website.