Despite dealing with her dad’s multiple deployments and staying busy with homework, Ja’Tyrah Joseph still makes time to give back to her community. This past year, she logged more than 850 community service hours.
“I just enjoy volunteering,” said Joseph, who was named the Boys & Girls Club’s Texas Military Youth of the Year. Joseph was recognized during a ceremony Friday at the Bronco Youth Center, where she received $28,000 in scholarship funds.
“This is an honor,” said Miriam Washington, the center’s facility director. “This is the first year that we’ve been able to separate from the traditional Boys & Girls Club and honor one youth who has done an outstanding job in the community, at school with their academic performance, with family and at the club.”
Joseph, a senior at Killeen High School, wrote two essays for the competition — one about why post secondary education is important and the other on what the Boys & Girls Club means to her and how it helped her overcome the obstacles of being a military child.
“The most challenging (thing) was with my dad being deployed and me having to help out my mom,” Joseph said. “The first time my dad left, my mom was pregnant, and it was a high-risk pregnancy. ... At 7 years old, I was basically fending for myself and my mom.”
Although her dad retired from the military, Joseph is still active with the Fort Hood youth center, which she has been attending for 12 years. She said the center helped her cope with her dad being deployed by encouraging her to always stay positive.
“Ja’Tyrah is very quiet, but she is outgoing in her own way,” Washington said. “She loves people. She loves giving back and she just likes helping.”
Joseph donates her time to various community organizations, including nursing homes, soup kitchens and animal shelters.
“You don’t always have to have your name out in the community in a negative way,” Joseph said. “You have to do positive things to get your name out there.”
Joseph said she was overwhelmingly honored to have friends and family recognize her during the ceremony. She plans to use the money she received to get a degree in dentistry with a minor in teaching from Abilene Christian University.
“When I do go to college and get my degree, I want to come back to (the Bronco Youth Center) and give back,” Joseph said. “A lot of the kids (at the center) are like, ‘I want to be like you.’ I just tell them to stay active at the center and this could be you one day.”