By Mary Alford, Fort Knox News Contributing WriterApril 6, 2018
The third time was the charm for Fort Knox High School junior Brandon Clay.
Clay, 16, began going to Devers Middle School and Teen Center, which is an affiliate member of Boys and Girls Club of America, six years ago. With the Boys and Girls Club, Clay said there is a Youth of the Year Program, which is a chance for "leaders to get themselves out there and be a representative" on a world-wide level.
According to the Boys and Girls website, Youth of the Year is its "signature effort to foster a new generation of leaders, fully prepared to live and lead in a diverse, global and integrated world economy."
Clay said this was his third time participating in the program and the first time he won on the local level. After winning the Fort Knox Military Youth of the Year in December 2017, Clay went on to win the Kentucky Military Youth of the Year for 2018 in March. After winning state, Clay received an $8,000 scholarship and a laptop.
"I was really happy about that," he said. "Before, I have never made it past local. It has been a program I have been trying for a while."
In determining a Youth of the Year, Clay said they take into consideration the application and a written and public speaking component.
"For my Youth of the Year, in my speech, I talked about how [the club] has helped me discover my passion for volunteering and how it has also ... helped me grow as a leader," he said.
Clay volunteers at the youth center, the local library, Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland and is actively involved with his church. He recently embarked on a nine-day mission trip with Fort Knox's Youth of the Chapel for Christ to Haiti.
Clay said the biggest part of being Youth of the Year is your vision for America's youth. He said his vision for America's youth "is and always will be" to reduce bullying.
Another part, he said, is your brand. He said a personal brand is "an item or object that represents who you are as a person."
"My personal brand is a shoe, or more specifically a Croc," he said, noting he has the shoe in a variety of colors and even a pair that plays music. "Everybody at school knows me for my Crocs."
Clay said Crocs are comfortable, resilient and unique, three things he is and aspires to be. He said military youth have to be resilient and comfortable with themselves, which the club has helped him to become.
"When I came to this club, I was a very shy person," he said, noting that is not the case anymore.
Clay said he also has a desire to stand out and be a leader among his peers -- to be unique.
In July, Clay will compete for Regional Youth of the Year in Chicago. He will also be participating in Boys and Girls Club 2018 Teen Ambassador Training that will be conducted in June.
Like the sole of a shoe, Clay credits
the Boys and Girls Club of America with helping him reach his goals.
"Whether you are a Reebok, a Nike, a Croc," he said, "the Boys and Girls Club of America will always be there to support you throughout your life."