Military Youth of the Year: Brianna Shephard

Brianna Shepherd

Holloman Air Force Base Youth & Teen Center, Alamogordo, N.M.

Southwest Military Youth of the Year

The military youth center has been in my life since I was in the fourth grade. Over the years, I have grown to love all that it stands for. It has played a big part in my experiences as a child and young adult. The club is one of the few things that has always been here for me through some of the best and worst times. It has helped me through multiple military moves, provided me with friends, assisted me in becoming more involved in my community and provided me with some of the best experiences and opportunities.

I first joined the youth center after I moved to Misawa Air Base in Japan during my fourth grade year. The move was my first, and when my family arrived in Japan I felt lost and alone. I had no idea how I was going to make new friends or adjust to such a different environment, so for a while I was bitter. However, my parents found out about the youth center on base. Thinking it would help with the transition for both my brother and me, they signed us up. Every day after school I would go to the center for homework assistance during Power Hour and wait for my mom to pick me up. I soon found out how amazing and fun the center was. The staff was friendly and understood exactly what I was going through as a military kid.

Within no time, I had made several new friends and was finding myself asking my mom if I could stay longer each day. I enjoyed everything the youth center had to offer, and it became my second home. The gym, the snack bar, the games and all the numerous activities made me like it all the more. No longer was I lost confused, scared or bitter; I was now comfortable with my new home.

Over the next five and a half years, I had some of the best experiences. I quickly became an active leader at the center. Working at the snack bar and helping to clean up before closing time were some of the tasks I performed daily at the center. The staff loved that I was willing to help out and I loved to help them. They assisted me with homework and were always there to listen to me if I needed to talk to someone. I felt safe and comfortable around them, and they became like family to me. I began to play basketball and baseball and participate in cheerleading, and soon realized my love for sports. I participated in dance and bingo nights and had the opportunity to try new things with my peers.

Then came the time when my family and I had to move once again. Surprised by the news, I became saddened — another military move. I didn’t want to have to be the new kid all over again. I was going to miss my home in Japan and at the youth center. But once I arrived at our new station here on Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, I was happy to hear they offered some of the same youth programs and clubs.

Since it was the summer after my freshman year, I had nothing but time on my hands. I signed up and sand got active. After enrolling in the Teen Wellness Camp, I had hopes to meet new people and friends. During the two weeks I spent in the camp, I met the girl who would prove to be my best friend. She helped me with my adjustment to the new base and was able to relate to my situation. The support of my new youth center helped me become resilient, and I was able to bounce back to my normal self within a matter of weeks. That summer, I went on several field trips to surrounding attractions, began to familiarize myself with my community, and built relationships with the staff that would open up a world of new opportunities. The youth center was the reason for my positive attitude toward moving, and I am thankful for its presence.

After becoming involved within the center, the director recognized my leadership potential. Having seen my involvement in the youth center, community and school, she allowed me the opportunity to embark on numerous trips and engage in scholarship programs. I was able to go to Washington, D.C. for the first time in my life. While there, I attended a week-long conference focused on honoring military youth involved in Boys & Girls Clubs of America around the world. I met several other military brats just like me who had done great things within their community. While visiting Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to meet a three-star general and to make new friends. My experiences throughout the trip encouraged me to strive for excellence.

Later on that summer, I applied and was selected to attend the Air Force Teen Leadership Camp in San Antonio, Texas. While there, I learned the importance of leadership skills. During workshops and activities, I began to understand how imperative it is to have great leaders our communities. I wanted to be one of these leaders, and this is why I still strive to build upon my leadership skills.

It has been said that the future is in my generation’s hands, and it is important that we have strong leaders like me. They need someone who is willing to show them the way to a successful life and better world. I want to be this kind of leader. I strive to inspire youth, and thanks to my youth program, I believe I am succeeding.

The military youth program and center have played and still play important roles in my life and in my growth as a person and a leader. Thanks to the youth program, I have been able to overcome numerous hardships and obstacles, including moving. The youth center and its staff have encouraged me to open up to others and become more social. It has allowed me to try new things and has fueled my desire to be an inspiration and role model. During my time at the youth center, I have had nothing but good experiences and fun times. The military youth center is very important and I appreciate all it has given me.

#Military Youth of the Year #Youth and Teen Center #military life #Youth Leadership