Tyndall selects Military Youth of the Year Published April 6, 2018 By Airman 1st Class Isaiah Soliz 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Department of Defense and the Boys & Girls Club of America partnered in 2003 to sponsor the Military Youth of the Year competition. The competition recognizes a club member who has served on a U.S. military installation and has overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and achieved extraordinary accomplishments. Valerie Messer, a freshman at Rutherford High School enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program, was selected as the 2018 Tyndall Military Youth of the Year. Messer has been a member of the Tyndall Youth Center since age 9, and is currently the club’s Keystone President. Messer grew up a distressed youth often clashing with her mother as well as peers at school. Through it all, she persevered and overcame her self-destructive path that included feelings of loneliness, bouts of depression, battles with her own sexuality or identity, and inflicting self-harm. She switched schools and became more involved with the Tyndall Youth Center to which she credits feeling confident and comfortable in her own skin. In a brief biography penned by Lubaba Bullock, a Tyndall Youth Center employee, she described Messer as “a role-model for young kids and the military community.” Bullock continued, describing her as someone who devotes her free time to helping kids with homework, mentoring and leading several fundraisers for the program. “Being the keystone president helped me be more understanding and be involved in my community,” Messer said. As Tyndall’s Youth of the Year, she underwent a lengthy application process that included writing essays about her experiences as a military child, her vision on America’s youth, her military club experience and her personal brand. “The encouragement that I got through my military Boys & Girls Club taught me how to tackle one task at a time,” she continued. “I can see my future more clearly now, I will attend Embry-Riddle University and become an aerospace engineer and I will devote my free time to mentor teens.” According to the Boys & Girls club, the Military Youth of the Year program begins at the local level and advances through state and regional competitions with the competition culminating in a ceremony in Washington D.C. later in the year. Once a Military Youth of the Year is named, he or she advances to join the five regional Youth of the Year finalists from non-military clubs to compete for the National Youth of the Year title. For more information visit www.bgca.org/ or contact the Tyndall Youth Center at 850-283-4366.