The 2016-2017 Illinois Military Youth of the Year and Midwest Regional Military Youth of the Year, presented by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, was awarded to a 17-year-old military daughter of two service members.
Kayla Jenkins was selected from nine finalists for leading, succeeding, and inspiring in her community. She received a $40,000 scholarship and, as part of her title, will represent military youth around the world.
As the president of the Keystone Teen Leadership Club, a member of the Running Start Club at Southwestern Illinois College and a member of the College Activities Club, her impact is far-reaching. She is currently working on organizing a college tour day, an Adopt a Highway cleanup, and the creation of an eco-friendly butterfly garden at the Scott AFB Youth Center.
She enjoys playing volleyball and doing community service at nursing homes and animal shelters in her spare time. As she prepares for college, she plans on majoring in Business in Finance and Accounting and ultimately attending law school.
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I feel so privileged to have had all the amazing opportunities I have had, and I am very proud to be the daughter of my incredibly selfless parents.
Kayla Jenkins, who was selected as the 2016-2017 Illinois Military Youth of the Year and Midwest Regional Military Youth of the Year
“It’s been six years since I walked into (the Scott Air Force Base Youth Center) and I still to this day thank my mom for the push she gave me, because my club has been there through it all,” said Jenkins. “The best part in joining was seeing that there are so many other youth going through the same hardships and struggles.”
Those events that impacted her life the most were her parents’ deployments, her parents’ divorce, and the frequent moving that military children face.
“I have dealt with hardship and struggle as a military youth, and it has helped me to learn the importance of strength and resilience,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins said her parents, Christina Gotay and Kevin Jenkins, and mentors, Karen Jalbert, Kelvin Davis and Kelly Calloway, keep her motivated. These are the people she looks up to.
“I feel so privileged to have had all the amazing opportunities I have had, and I am very proud to be the daughter of my incredibly selfless parents,” said Jenkins.
“I feel that everyone has their own purpose and path to success, and I have no interest in straying away from mine; but, instead, I am ready to take on my purpose and add to my successes,” she said.
Kayla Jenkins was selected from nine finalists for leading, succeeding, and inspiring in her community. She received a $40,000 scholarship and, as part of her title, will represent military youth in their communities around the world.
In September, Jenkins will join other military youth finalists in Washington, D.C., as they vie for the National Military Youth of the Year title. The National Youth of the Year is a role model, leader and advocate for the nearly four million youth served by Boys and Girls Clubs each year, and all of America’s young people.
The Military Youth of the Year honor is a distinct component of the National Youth of the Year program. It recognizes a Club member who served on a U.S. military installation who has overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments.
To earn this honor, Club youth advance through local, state and regional competitions.
“I am very excited to head to D.C. for the National Military Youth of the Year competition. I feel very honored and proud to represent the Midwest region and I am ready for all that is in store for the week,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins defines herself with three words—“determined, because I refuse to give up; insightful because of my constant awareness; and genuine, because I am understanding.”