Tinker’s Military Youth of the Year

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Leyinzca Bihlajama
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Meet Willow Roe this year’s Boys and Girls Club Military Youth of the Year for the state of Oklahoma. Roe has earned this title through her commitment to community service, academic success, good character and citizenship, and establishing long term goals.

While the state title is a stepping stone for Roe, it advances her to the Southwest Regional competition, held later this summer. Following the regional meet, Military finalist from six regions - Overseas and the Northeast, Southeast, Pacific, Midwest and Southwest United States, compete for the National Military Youth title. The frontrunner then proceeds to the final round with five Regional Youth of the Year winners, from non-military Boys & Girls Clubs, to vie for the honor of being recognized as the National Youth of the Year.

Roe says the contest grants teens the opportunity to express themselves and tell their stories. It also offers a chance to earn scholarships for college.

The application process is quite lengthy, participants have to compose a series of essays, speeches, and interviews, testing their leadership and public speaking skills.

“At first I was hesitant,” said Roe. “I didn’t want to because I get very nervous and suffer from social anxiety- but I realized that this can be a really good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. This will help me grow as a person. I am about to go to college and need these experiences. It also allows me to tell my story and advocate for mental health.”

Roe is passionate about normalizing mental health and ensuring others gain the skills needed to express their emotions. For this reason she has proposed an initiative to create safe spaces for mental breaks inside Youth Centers.

As a military child Roe struggled to adjust whenever her father, retired Master Sgt. Duane Roe, left for a deployment.

“I was just a kid, so I didn’t understand why he was leaving and why he missed some critical parts of my childhood,” she said.

Having experienced the hardships first hand, Roe understands the value of programs at the Youth Center and hopes to contribute to their efforts by providing additional support to military children.

The Military Youth of the year, is one of the six components of the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year program. It recognizes outstanding teens who receive support from Youth Centers on U.S. military installations.