FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 13, 2022) -- In case you missed it last year, Michael Frimpong did it again!
The Fort Drum teen and Indian River High School senior recently was named the New York State Military Youth of the Year for the second year in a row. In two weeks, he will travel to New York City to participate in the Northeast Regional Youth of the Year Competition.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Frimpong said. “My parents were very proud of me, and I’m proud – it’s really an honor.”
Established in 1947, the Youth of the Year is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth leadership and teen recognition program. Frimpong has been an active club member at the Fort Drum Youth Center since 2016.
“At first, I was just looking for something to do, and a lot of my friends were coming to the Youth Center,” he said. “I guess I was just following their path, but I started getting way more involved than they were.”
To be nominated for Military Youth of the Year, Frimpong had to submit a resume, four essays on topics such as personal growth and military youth experience, and letters of recommendation. During the regional competition, he will be interviewed by a panel of judges on subjects that can include youth advocacy, academic achievement, leadership and service.
Frimpong said that his experience with this competition last year gave him insight into how to approach it this year.
“I’m definitely trying to be more energetic, because I guess last year I was kind of shy,” he said. “Since I’ve done this before, I think I’m more prepared and more confident, and that helped me a lot.”
Frimpong said that he has been a Fort Drum community member for nearly a decade, after his family moved here from Germany.
“When we first got here, we were living off base and I didn’t see much,” Frimpong said. “But once we moved on base, I saw what a huge community we have, and Fort Drum is much bigger than I thought. It was nice to see everything and be around the people living here.”
His father, Seth, retired from the 10th Mountain Division (LI) in 2017, and his mother, Monica, is employed on post. Frimpong said that it was challenging having a father who was away for extensive periods of time on deployments.
“Because he was gone for so long, there was a lot of stuff he didn’t know about me, and a lot I didn’t know about him,” he said. “But when he got back, we talked, and we grew our connection. But even though my dad was gone, I had a lot of friends I spent time with, and they sort of filled that gap. I was never lonely and I always had fun.”
Frimpong said, growing up, his main interest has always been basketball, and that is where he met a lot of his friends.
“But then I started joining other clubs at the Youth Center, and I started talking with other people I didn’t play basketball with,” he said. “I learned about their interests and saw how they were different from my group of friends I played basketball with.”
Over the years, he has participated in many of the programs at Youth Center, including Drum Time – where he was introduced to the guitar, drums and piano – the Keystone Club, Fine Arts and Crafts, and Passport to Manhood.
He also was active in the Youth Leadership Forum, which promotes a teen chain of communication to raise, discuss and prioritize issues of concern. Frimpong said that as a sixth grader, he participated in the forum that briefed garrison leadership about inadequate access to the Youth Center. In time, this resulted in the development of new walkways to the facility.
“That was nice to see that people will listen if you try,” he said. “I didn’t think anything would happen at first. I thought maybe they would put it at the back of their book, something to do 10 years down the line. So it was great to see them building the sidewalks so quick.”
At Indian River High School, Frimpong served as treasurer of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.
“We do a lot of community service through that,” he said. “We clean up the school, organize food drives and, around Christmas time we supported an Angel Tree project.”
Frimpong will graduate soon, and he looks forward to advancing his education at the University at Buffalo. Having won the state level Military Youth of the Year twice, he has earned $20,000 in college scholarships so far.
“My end goal is to become a nuclear medicine technologist,” he said. “They specialize in nuclear medicine to help diagnose different diseases. So, that will be my major in college, and hopefully I can branch off into other areas of radiology.”
Frimpong said that his parents encouraged him at an early age to develop an interest in medicine.
“I did my research, and I found what I would enjoy doing,” he said. “I like technology, and this is a growing field and I believe that doing that would be beneficial to my future.”
Steven Ferguson, Fort Drum Youth Program manager, said that he is not surprised that Frimpong has set his goals so high.
“Michael is a very bright, intelligent teen and just a great person,” he said. “He started with us in the sixth grade, his brothers and sister are here, and he has grown up with this program.”
Ferguson said that many teens tend to veer away from youth programs after entering high school, where they become more focused on other extracurricular activities. But he said Michael is an example of someone who remained active in the program and became a youth leader in the community.
“Let me put it this way, any initiative we have tried, Mike was there for,” Ferguson said. “We have a lot of great teens at the Youth Center, and he is definitely one of them.”
To learn more about the Youth of the Year program and how Fort Drum teens can become involved, visit the Youth Center, Bldg. 10788 on Chapel Drive, or call (315) 772-6719.