With the titles of Fort Hood, Texas and Southwest Region Military Youth of the Year already under her belt, Shakira Wingate is still gunning for one more — the Military Youth of the Year.
“I’m nervous,” the 18-year-old graduate of Shoemaker High School said of the 3-minute speech she will deliver Thursday in Washington, D.C. She got the chance to practice the speech during a celebration held for her at Bronco Youth Center on Thursday.
The opportunity to represent all military children is exciting, she said. Overall, she described military kids as diverse and resilient to the challenges created by their parent’s career.
Wingate herself has undergone 15 moves and attended 11 different schools.
Despite the challenges, Wingate will attend the University of Texas at San Antonio this fall with an associate’s degree and a full scholarship.
Through it all, she said programs like Child, Youth and School Services helped her find confidence, friendship and her voice. Programs available at Bronco Youth Center helped her complete homework, find an after-school job and gain volunteer opportunities in the city of Killeen.
In her speech, Wingate compares the foundation the program created within her, to the foundation contractors build in a home.
“The program motivated me for my future,” Wingate said. “It’s the solid foundation from the staff ... and the framework of the club that made me into the smart girl I am today.”
Also guiding her were her parents. Wingate’s father Arnold Wingate, is a veteran, and her mother, Kamilah Harrison is a retired staff sergeant with 21 years of service.
“I’m very proud of my daughter,” Harrison said. “It seems surreal.”
The Bronco Youth Center has become a second family to Wingate, she added.
“I’ve been deployed four times. The daycare centers and youth centers were there to help ... when I wasn’t around,” Harrison said.
Nick Johnsen, director of Fort Hood’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said Wingate’s achievements are a positive example of what this young generation of youth can achieve.
“Time’s like this I’m encouraged,” he said.
As Wingate spoke about finding success in the future and earning the top military youth title, Johnsen reminded her to look at everything she’s already achieved.
“You’re already successful. If you win, great, but I don’t care, because you’ve already made a step in the right direction,” he said.
With the three Military Youth of the Year titles Wingate already earned among military kids ages 14 to 18, she’s received $11,000 in college scholarships. If she wins the overal title, another $50,000 could come her way.