Buckley Youth wins Colorado Military Youth of the Year
By Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spradling, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 29, 2016
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "I grew up with my great grandma, but I spent a lot of time with my grandma, my mother and my five aunts," said Ernesto Flores, 2016 Colorado Military Youth of the Year. "That's a lot of females to be around and with no male father figure around it is kind of hard to see and understand what a guy is supposed to do."
No matter his background, Flores always knew he wanted to be successful, but until recently he didn't know his path.
Around his fourth grade year, Flores' life drastically changed. His mother married a military man and the family moved to Colorado to become part of Team Buckley.
"Actually getting a dad was a big deal to me because it went from looking at everyone else and trying to pick out the things I should do to actually having that person to tell me what to do and not to do or how to get through my struggles," aid Flores. "It was like I now had a guide to help me through life. Seeing the way he treated our family and how he put that before everything else, that set me on the right track, that's what a husband and dad is supposed to be and that's what I aspire to be."
Over the past two years he worked towards being an exemplary young person through the Boys and Girls Club of America Military Youth of the Year program. During his time on Buckley Air Force Base, Flores spent the majority of his time outside of school involved in organizations on base, such as the youth center and the Keystone Club, a leadership organization that helps prepare youth for the future as well as molding them for success. The base groups provided Flores with the knowledge to compete for Military Youth of the Year and win on the state level as well as compete at the national level.
"Winning the Colorado Military Youth of the Year has definitely given me more motivation just because I kept getting told 'Apply for as many scholarships as possible,' but you don't realize how difficult that is until you go through the process," said Flores. "Now that I've won it has set the momentum for me to want to get more and my ambitions are bigger, the whole path of my future is paving itself out. It's clearer to see where I want to go."
Those close to Flores have seen opportunities arise through his involvement in the youth center and Youth of the Year.
"This opportunity has affected him a lot," said Teddy Hardney, Buckley Youth Center child and youth program assistant. "He can go to the college he wants to, which is the University of Texas. The funding and everything else won't get in the way; he knows he can attend his dream school now."
The Youth of the Year program started in 1947 to provide a voice for young people and vision for a great future. Boys and Girls Club sponsors this program every year to showcase the best and brightest youth from around the country.
"Military Youth of the Year is worth the time you put into it," said Flores. "It's a struggle to write four essays and memorize a personally written speech, but it's all worth it in the end. You get to meet a lot of people who are amazing in so many different ways. I would have never met so many different types of people if it weren't for this journey."
This program recognizes young people who excel in leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to live a healthy lifestyle. Time and effort is needed to attain the title and honor; however, many opportunities are available to those who are willing to work for it.
"Any child who wants to be Military Youth of the Year, I would say make sure you're volunteering in your community, outside your community, make sure your grades are up, and if you are struggling in school then look for tutors whether it's at your school or the youth center," said Hardney. "Just go for it, don't let your mind decide you can't or that you aren't good enough, because you are good enough."
The opportunities provided to Flores from the program have built up his confidence and allowed him to persevere through the tough times, while offering him many positive life advancements.
Ernesto has faced many challenges in his life, but through family, the Military Youth of the Year program, the youth center and its staff, he has started a path to a bright future that will inspire many.
"Find what you're good at and build yourself off of that, rather than the negativity, because once you find what you're good at it's easier to use that as motivation to push yourself to get through obstacles and reach your goals," said Flores.