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JBLM youth takes top state and regional honors

Christian Ashford to represent JBLM Boys & Girls Clubs of America at Nationals

Christian Ashford, 2019 Pacific Region and WA State Military Youth of the Year, is active in an anti-bullying campaign. Photo provided by Christian Ashford

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Christian Ashford, a member of the Hillside Youth Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), is the 2019 Pacific Region and WA State Military Youth of the Year. He will serve as a Military Youth Ambassador for the Washington state Boys and Girls Clubs of America.    

"It is a great honor to represent thousands of military kids across the West Coast. Military kids are awesome and resilient, and I am so eager to see what the future holds as I represent my peers," said Ashford, a rising senior at Steilacoom High School. In addition to the recognition, he received a $5,000 scholarship at the state level and a $40,000 scholarship at the regional level.

The National Youth of the Year is the top honor a BGCA Club member can receive. Established in 1947, the program recognizes young people, ages 14 to 18, for their commitment to community service, academic success, good character and citizenship, and establishing long-term goals. The Military Youth of the Year was established in 2013 and honors the outstanding teens from BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations worldwide. The National Military Youth of the Year winner advances to the final round to join the five Regional Youth of the Year winners, from non-military Boys and Girls Clubs, to vie for the honor of National Youth of the Year. In 2016, BGCA's decades-long commitment to military families saw 457,000 youth served through membership and outreach on U.S. military installations worldwide, and 22,000 more military-connected youth served at 1,600 traditional Boys and Girls Clubs.

As part of the process, Ashford was required to come up with a platform. "I initially had the idea to start an Anti-Bullying Campaign when I was volunteering for my local middle school club, Passport to Manhood. During that meeting, many of our members were acknowledging how impacting bullying was to them, and for me being able to relate to their problem, I decided to take action and started educating other kids on Anti-Bullying," he said. Ashford is very active at the Hillside Youth Center on JBLM and volunteers to teach boys life skills as part of the center's Passport to Manhood program.

Ashford will represent JBLM, Washington state and the Pacific region at the National Military Youth of the Year event in Washington, D.C., Aug. 11-16, and have the opportunity to win a $20,000 scholarship. The National Military Youth of the Year serves a one-year term as the military youth spokesperson for the Department of Defense, the military services and the Boys and Girls Clubs. The winner will then advance to the National Youth of the Year event and have the opportunity for a $100,000 scholarship.

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