PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --
She sat paralyzed as the announcer took his time sharing the news.
“And now, the winner of the Southeast Military Youth of the Year is...”
The seconds felt like hours as she sat frozen with a smile on her face.
“KYLA WILLIAMS!” The announcer exclaimed.
The smile on her face grew bigger as she realized she had been chosen. As the room filled with excitement, you could hear Kyla’s parents, Challette Williams and retired Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Williams, rushing inside to congratulate her.
Those long hours of writing essays and practicing her speeches had finally paid off.
“All my hard work was being recognized, and that was fulfilling,” Kyla said.
All military installations participate in the Youth of the Year competition because it is the Boys and Girls Club of America’s (BGCA) premiere recognition program, according to Pamela Jordan, chief of child and youth services at Patrick Space Force Base. It recognizes youth serving on a military installation and the successes they have achieved.
“It’s an opportunity for one of our youth to shine, tell their story, and interact with youth from other military bases,” said Jordan. “It helps youth become more confident, develop leadership skills and inspire their peers to succeed.”
Serving as a military youth, Kyla has demonstrated her resiliency through multiple moves, changing schools, as well as soccer teams. The youth center at Patrick SFB, not only offered her a comfortable, stress-free environment, but also pushed her to reach her full potential, Kyla said.
“The youth center was the place where I could relax and hangout,” Kyla said. “It is a diverse community to have fun, but also refocus me when needed.”
It became apparent to the team at the youth center that Kyla would be a great candidate for the Youth of the Year competition.
“Kyla is a very kind, hardworking, dedicated and focused young woman,” said Ya’Mika Brown, youth center advisor. “Her hard work and ethics are exactly what BGCA and Patrick SFB youth development programs represent.”
Being in her senior year of high school, Kyla was hesitant to apply for MYOY.
“I was hesitant to apply because I worried about all the essays and speeches, stepping out of my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure if I was good enough,” Kyla said.
Kyla served as the secretary of the Keystone Club, as a member of the BGCA Leadership Club and played on the Satellite High School and Space Coast United soccer teams. She also maintained an above average GPA. For these reasons and more, youth center leadership felt she was qualified to compete for MYOY.
“My parents and Ms. Ya’Mika all believed I was good enough and I knew I needed to make the decision and take that leap,” said Kyla.
In April, Kyla won MYOY for Florida, beating out youth from five military bases. She then competed against youth from seven other installations in the Southeast region competition and once again came up victorious.
“We were thankful that she was recognized and rewarded for being herself,” said Challette and Jerome.
Kyla won a laptop, a $20,000 college scholarship, and a car, for being named the Southeast region MYOY. However, she said she has gained far more than material possessions through the competition.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned through this experience was the importance of a voice,” said Kyla. “I got to hear so many stories and got to share my own.”
This fall, Kyla will be playing soccer for South Georgia State College and pursuing a degree in health and human performance to fulfill her dreams of becoming a physical therapist.
“It has been an honor to stand with Kyla and watch her grow and come out of her shell,” said Brown. “She is a wonderful, poetic, and loving young woman whose core values encompass PSFB and BGCA values. She will be an asset and outstanding member of any community she is involved in.”