MCAS Iwakuni hosts 2015 Youth of the Year
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, hosted the Boys & Girls Club of America’s 2015 Youth of the Year, April 10, at the Club Iwakuni Ballroom.
Beginning in 1947, the BGCA organizes the Youth of the Year competition annually, recognizing the extraordinary achievements of teens involved in their programs.
The Youth of the Year competition allows the chance for teens involved in BGCA programs to showcase their leadership skills, academic excellence and healthy lifestyle. It provides them a chance to use the skills they’ve gained and compete against other teens who also display those leadership attributes.
There are nine military installations around the Asia Pacific Theater that use BGCA programs and each of them chose a teen to represent them in the Youth of the Year competition.
Ray Duncan, a 12th grade student at Nile C. Kinnick in Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, won the competition and will represent Asia in regionals.
When judges announced the winner, Duncan was at a loss for words.
“There are no words to explain how emotional I’m feeling right now,” said Duncan. “It means so much to me to know my message was finally heard because with this I know that I can help others around me so that their message can also be heard. I’m looking forward to going to regional next.”
The teens chosen to represent their installation put a lot of hard work into being selected. The competition required them to write four essays and receive multiple recommendations for entry.
“It was nerve-racking,” said Duncan. “I was trying to figure out the right words to say and how to display everything I wanted to say in four short essays.”
This year is unique because the competition was never hosted aboard MCAS Iwakuni before.
Most Marine Corps bases don’t have a Youth and Teen Center due to the lack of funding. The Youth and Teen Center aboard station is kept alive because of grants and awards the center earns under the command of Eugene Clark, youth director for the Youth and Teen Center.
The programs provided by the BGCA help children and teens with military parents make a smooth transition when moving to different duty stations. They provide an easier way for kids to make friends and give them the opportunity to feel more at home, despite the constant change.
The programs are especially valued overseas where kids do not have the opportunity to go off base for programs and activities like they could in the U.S.
Duncan received a $5,000 scholarship for winning this competition and will earn another $10,000 if she wins regional.