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Buckley youth selected as Youth of the Year

Ernesto Flores, Buckley Air Force Base Youth of the Year, Colo., stands beside Joe Garcia, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, during a Youth of the Year event, March 24, 2015. The program recognized outstanding teens in the community who embody academic excellence, healthy lifestyles, values of leadership and service to the community. (courtesy photo)

Ernesto Flores, Buckley Air Force Base Youth of the Year, Colo., stands beside Joe Garcia, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado, during a Youth of the Year event, March 24, 2015. The program recognized outstanding teens in the community who embody academic excellence, healthy lifestyles, values of leadership and service to the community. (courtesy photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "It felt like they could all stare directly into my soul," said Ernesto Flores. "They weren't listening to my words, but if they were listening to what I was saying, they could catch everything." 

Flores was selected as the 2016 Youth of the Year for Buckley Air Force Base on Dec. 11, 2015. Youth of the Year is a program designed to recognize outstanding teens in the community who embody academic excellence, healthy lifestyles, values of leadership and service to the community.

To enter the program, candidates must write a 5-page package describing why they should be selected.

"They also have a grueling 2-minute speech that they have to memorize without any notes and without any help," said Vincent Kurtz, 460th Mission Support Group teen coordinator. "They have to be able to do their speech in front of all the judges and their peers."

This is Flores' second year moving forward to the state competition, which also means it will be his second time giving the speech.

"I remember weaving between all the tables because I wanted to waste as much time as I could to calm my nerves," said Flores. "I took as many deep breaths as I could, trying to handle it. I got on stage and made no eye contact with anyone in the audience. Once I looked up, I saw how many people were there."

At the 2015 state competition, Flores stood in front of the community's leadership and his peers, an audience of approximately 200 people.

"I just couldn't hold it in and I said 'there are a lot of people here,'" said Flores. "Once I heard myself say that, I thought to myself 'man, I already messed up.' But I went through the speech again."

To help calm his nerves, Flores chose people out of each section of the audience to concentrate on. After the judges deliberated, he was named the runner up for the state of Colorado military youth for 2015. 

With a year of experience competing behind him, Flores understands what is expected of him and plans to excel in this year's competition, even with his anxiety about public speaking.

"I am a little bit more terrified now," said Flores. "I feel they will expect more out of me because I know what I am walking into. I am afraid that if I can't deliver exactly what they're looking for, then I will be a failure, even though I am putting my best into it. It's more the sense of fear of not meeting their expectations."

Even with a little trepidation, Flores is moving forward with the support of his family and guidance from the Buckley Youth Center community. He also hopes that his efforts can inspire others to conquer their own fears.

"I want all the other kids to feel like if they can't do something because they're scared or because they think they don't have a chance, that I know myself going through the Youth of the Year competition I was terrified," said Flores. "I had given only one other speech before and I honestly thought I had no chance."

Flores will compete in the Youth of the Year state competition March 21-22.
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