• Vega named post's 2018 Youth of Year

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Carlos Vega, a junior at Leavenworth High School, was officially named the 2018 Fort Leavenworth Military Youth of the Year in a ceremony March 1 at Harrold Youth Center.
    Garrison Commander Col. Marne Sutten and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Fuller officially presented Vega with the award in front of his peers.
    “You should be proud of this man standing right here,” Sutten said. “He is setting an example of trying to make things better for all these military kids and I encourage you guys to use Carlos as a role model and as a mentor because you guys can make real change.
    “You can choose to make (military life and moving) difficult on yourself or you can choose to do what this young man did right here which is lead by example and be a mentor to his community.”
    Vega said it felt good to be chosen as youth of the year.
    “It’s a very big honor for me,” Vega said. “I entered myself last year, but unfortunately I lost … so I’ve been working with Phil (Parsons, HYC volunteer) who was one of the judges last year. He knew what I needed to improve on and he helped me get more comfortable with my speech and more confident.”
    Parsons said he was proud of Vega.
    “It’s just been incredibly humbling to work alongside a military teen and help him look to the next level of competition and see him do extremely well,” Parsons said. “I’ve seen so much growth not just in his speaking, but just in his confidence level, and he’s having fun with this and that’s really what I want to see.”
    The Military Youth of the Year award, which Vega will now compete for by being named post’s Youth of the Year, is the highest honor a young person can receive from the Boys and Girls Club of America, said Michelle Eastburn, HYC middle school team director.
    “Carlos has been part of our (Child and Youth Services) program ever since he was in (Child Development Center) so he kind of grew up in our program,” Eastburn said. “He’s part of everything that we do and he’s been one of our great teens. I think he’s going to be a great representative not only for Fort Leavenworth but for military teens.”
    As part of his more than 150 hours of volunteer service this past year, Vega has participated in Passport to Manhood, the National Honor Society, Junior ROTC, Salvation Army bell ringing and has served Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to the homeless with his family.
    Page 2 of 3 - “It’s a lot of helping the community,” Vega said. “It makes you feel a lot better when you’re out there and you’re with friends and you’re just helping out others.”
    Vega’s mom Nicole Gregory said she was proud of his volunteer work.
    “I’m all about volunteering,” Gregory said. “We do a lot as a family but he (does) a lot of volunteering with NHS and JROTC. I think it’s great. It’s important to give back.”
    Recently, Vega was selected to be one of the delegates on the Army Teen Panel, a two-year assignment.
    “They (members of the Army Teen Panel) go in and they try to figure out what teens want at their installations,” Eastburn said. “So, they go and talk to the high commands and everything else so that’s pretty cool.”
    Christy Allie, HYC assistant director, said the Army Teen Panel selection committee was impressed with Vega’s application.
    “They said that his application and his background and the things that he had done just set him up perfectly for being one of the panel kids,” she said.
    As part of the ceremony, Vega gave his Fort Leavenworth Youth of the Year competition speech to his peers at HYC.
    “People for the most part view me as a dedicated, caring and responsible young man. I’m dedicated because I like to finish what I start and I would bet anyone can do anything as long as they put the time and effort into it,” Vega said in his speech.
    “I will always fight for the underdog and stand up for the ones who won’t speak.”
    Allie said Vega proved the latter statement at the Youth Leadership Forum last summer.
    “Carlos was amazing,” Allie said. “Every time the kids would hang out, Carlos did such a good job of getting the kid who wasn’t talking to talk. He makes it easy for kids to share information and he’s just kind of got that way about him.”
    Vega said a lot of what he has been able to do is thanks in part to the HYC staff and his mother.
    “The staff who work at (HYC) have been my mentors through the years and they have watched me grow up. They are like family to me because I can turn to any one of them when I have a problem … Since I’ve been attending (since second grade) the staff knows and trusts me and that special trust has given me the opportunity to be picked for leadership positions,” he said.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my mother who is my biggest advocate. Without her support, I would’ve never met many of these amazing people that I have and had these wonderful experiences. I’m honored to be her son and I’m honored to be competing for the Fort Leavenworth Youth of the Year.”
    Vega went on to compete in the state competition at a banquet March 7 in Topeka against the Youths of the Year from Fort Riley and McConnell Air Force Base. The results will be revealed today.
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