Youth of the Year stands for her peers

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

On March 28th, Team Buckley’s own 17-year-old Danielle Wright competed in Denver and was titled the 2017 Colorado Military Youth of the Year and now represents all military children throughout the state.

With the title still fresh, Wright has already decided how she’ll use this new platform.

Being Youth of the Year, to me, is an opportunity to advocate for the things I choose to, explained Wright. Whether it’s for woman’s rights, minority rights or mental health issues, I just want to advocate for people.

With April being designated as Month of the Military Child to acknowledge both the sacrifices each military child makes and the challenges they overcome, there’s no better time to begin advocating.

Many are aware of some struggles the youth experience; moving often, and having to readjust to a new environment being the most common. Wright, who has moved six times, hopes to bring awareness to how hard this truly is for people to adjust.

“It’s hard to say this lifestyle doesn’t affect you deeply,” said Wright. “It is difficult for young adults in general to move and start over; it’s hard losing their roots. For military children, we don’t even have time to build those roots, making it very easy for us to feel disconnected.”

Further proving her well-deserved title, Wright is not only bringing awareness to this already well-known struggle, but is providing a solution.

By encouraging everyone to become involved with their youth center, she believes the morale in the youth population will skyrocket and more children will be interested in joining, making it much easier for new families to become comfortable in their new community.

“Growing up, I didn’t have a youth center,” said Wright. “I never had that community of familiarity of being in the military, so being independent was very prominent to me.”

Familiar with the challenge of making new friends, Danielle hopes to highlight how accepting everyone is within the youth community on Buckley Air Force Base. The staff at the Buckley Youth Center have noticed this as well.

“I’ve been working with youths for almost eight years now, and I have never seen friendships build faster than here on a military installation,” said Autumn Washington, child and youth program specialist. “There are children who move here from another base and are taken in immediately. I’ve worked in public schools and you just don’t see that happen. These kids are familiar with the process of moving and finding new friends; the amount of empathy they have for each other is incredible.”

Like most things in a child’s life, this begins with the parents. Wright believes that if more parents or adults became actively involved in the youth center, the entire community will become stronger.

In agreement with Danielle is Ernesto Flores, Buckley Youth Center member and former Military Youth of the Year.

“My dad started coming to teen nights and he plays basketball with the kids,” said Flores. “Everyone has a blast. In fact, a lot of the youth will coax him into coming back by telling him ‘I bet I’ll beat you next time.’”

Realizing adults may not feel comfortable attending events at the youth center if they don’t have children themselves, the youth members want to make it clear they’re always excited to have them present.

“We want them to be part of it,” said Wright. “The different experiences and personalities would make it much more enjoyable.”

The Buckley Youth Center has the Keystone Club, a youth-based organization, to help plan youth center events. Part of the planning involves coming up with activities targeted for parent participation.

“Sometimes, as humans, we forget to stay connected with those who are closest to us,” expressed Washington. “That’s our goal as a youth center; we want families to feel comfortable coming in and enjoying their time with one another.”

Although Danielle graduates high school soon and will move onto college, she will remain involved with the youth center and continue to advocate for its members.

“I’m not going anywhere; I will definitely stay involved after I move,” said Wright. “I would love to work at the youth center or one of the child development centers.”