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.
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.
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.
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:
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.