SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Children of service members often encounter many challenges as a result of the military lifestyle. One teen that suddenly was thrust into this lifestyle, not only overcame her challenges, but found a way to flourish in them.
Katelyn Brown received the 2013 Boys and Girls Clubs of America Hawaii Military Youth of the Year at the State Capitol of Hawaii March 19.
"I felt very honored and proud to receive this award," said Brown, a 17-year-old volunteer and a native of Robbins, N.C. "Getting this award made me feel that I can do anything as long as I dedicate myself to accomplishing the goals I set."
Brown lived in a small town of approximately 1,000 people for more than 10 years. Her way of life was turned upside down when her mother Steffanie, an MWR employee, married Staff Sgt. Brian Walter, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Shortly after Brown transitioned from regular teen to Army teen, she also had to transition from small town North Carolina to military life in Hawaii. Several fears and doubts arose in her mind as she prepared to move to Hawaii, said Brown.
"I did not know what to expect of what was to come with moving to Hawaii," Brown said. "I knew that with great sacrifice comes great courage."
Brown had some trouble adjusting to her new life and home.
"I started to feel that I would never get adjusted to my new life, make friends, or even fit in. I wondered, 'Is this the life I wanted?'" Brown recalled.
In an attempt to get involved with her peers, she visited the Schofield Barracks Teen Center. As she walked through the door, the feeling of being home cascaded over her.
According to Brown, the spirit of ohana lives in the Teen Center. She met amazing and supportive staff and new friends who were always there for her and guided her when challenges arose.
"I began volunteering because I wanted to get involved with whatever was going on in the community," stated Brown. "The best part of volunteering is the outcome, knowing I can do stuff for others without spending money. The feeling of helping others cannot be matched."
Brown began her volunteer time every Wednesday with the Torch Club "Leadership Club." The Torch Club assists teens in community services activities, educational activities, and teen socials.
She was selected to be on the Pacific Teen Panel and attend the Army's Youth Leadership Forum Camp on the Big Island of Hawaii. The event brings military teens from Korea, Japan, Kwajalein, Alaska and Hawaii together.
Brown is also a part of the Hired Program that allows her to assist in the Teen Center office and aid the staff with clubs and activities. One of her favorite volunteer activities is teaching a cooking class every Thursday to military children.
"One of my most memorable moments I volunteered at was the Toy Give-Away with the BGCA and Toy Industry Foundation," recalled Brown. "We gave away more than 2,000 toys to Army and military children for Christmas."
After being named the 2013 BGCA Hawaii Military Youth of the Year, Brown is looking to the future for career and education.
"I want to attend University of North Carolina and become a registered nurse," Brown said.
Brown was awarded a $3,000 college scholarship for being the Military Youth of the Year. Along with the scholarship, she was presented with a plaque from the Hawaii Senate and House of Representatives, honored by the Governor of Hawaii, Neal Abercrombie, and a letter from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii Mark Recktenwald.
"Katelyn has overcome any issue or struggle that comes with a 'blended family' to better herself," said Walter. "She has only been in a military home for two years and winning this distinguished award has motivated her to continue her education. I am very proud of her accomplishments and to be called her step-father."
The Teen Center enabled Brown to meet new teens, learn new things, and participate in volunteer work and activities. It is also a place where teens can go to be their selves and be accepted for who they are.
"The Schofield Teen Center changed my life because it gave me so many opportunities," said Brown. "I never thought there would be anything for me to do there, but I soon found out there is something for everyone. I encourage other teens to come to the Teen Center and see what they have for them."
She will compete in the BGCA Military Youth of the Year Regional Competition on July 15 to 18 in Hunting Beach, Calif.
"Taking this honor as Hawaii's Military Youth of the Year is one that I will cherish and will represent the Army Hawaii with great dignity and grace," said Brown. "This award will show Army teens that there is something out there for them to accomplish and strive for."