By Mr. Kenneth Fidler (IMCOM)April 29, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Brian McNett is one busy eighth grader.
After school, he can be found at either the Yongsan or the Hannam Village Middle School Teen Center, volunteering an average of 40 - yes, 40 - hours a week to help out his fellow teens.
He just tested for a black belt in tae kwon do and is taking kumdo lessons, as well. And he is president of Yongsan's Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America Torch Club, planning activities for other teens and recruiting new members.
"Volunteering gives me something to do so I can give back to the community for the things they do for us," he said. "If you continue doing something, they'll continue doing things for you."
It's that effort that earned him the award of Korea Army Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America Youth of the Year for 2008. He now goes on to compete for the Asia-Pacific Army Youth of the Year.
"He is an amazing youth," said Cameron Gonzales, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Middle School/Teen Program director. "I am constantly amazed by Brian's maturity and ability to take on the leadership role whenever needed. He is also one who takes the initiative and makes great things happen in the program."
Brian said he got the volunteer bug from his stepfather, George Jackson. "What we've tried to teach him is the biggest reason that you volunteer in your community ... it makes you a better person and how to deal with people and interact with them," Jackson said. "We've tried to instill in him to treat people with respect and learn how to deal with people."
His mother, Staff Sgt. Stacy Jackson, who works in the 532nd Military Intelligence Battalion on Camp Coiner, said they couldn't be more proud of Brian. "I was just really speechless when we heard about his award."
She said he's been volunteering just over a year and never realized how much of an impact it has had on his life.
"It took him a little while to finally branch out," she said. "He knew some friends were going over to the teen center after school, and he just started going over there. He's a very helpful young man, really willing to help. He just took the ball and ran with it."
Brian credits his volunteer work with teaching him important social skills. "I've learned partnership, how to work with other people, get large projects done quickly and efficiently, and how to stay organized," he said.
He stays focused on trying to improve the Teen Center at Hannam Village, a family housing area located about a 10-minute drive from Yongsan Garrison. The center is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Brian is trying to increase participation.
Just recently, he organized a teen lock-in on April 25 that originally was only a seven-hour event ending at 8 p.m. Under his leadership, he turned it into an all-night event featuring a barbecue "hail and farewell" for new and outgoing employees. It also included pool and ping-pong tournaments.
Brian's volunteer work has become more fun than anything else. "He sacrificed a day off to go grocery shopping for the teen centers and deliver the groceries," his stepfather said. "I thought that was pretty awesome. He's very generous with his time."
Gonzales said Brian takes the initiative and "makes great things happen" in the program.
"I whole-heartedly believe that Brian McNett deserves to be selected as the National Youth of the Year winner," Gonzales said. "He is an exceptional youth, who is most definitely a positive role model for others."