When Brendan Kennedy was named the Southeast Military Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America earlier this month, his initial response was to praise his competitors.
“When he showed up at the Youth of the Year (ceremony), all he did was talk about the other individuals,” said Marvin Hawkins, the teen coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club at Robins Air Force Base.
“He’s a very humble, very kind young man. He’s very level-headed. When you want results, he’s the person you turn to get it done. He’s a great team player.”
Kennedy, who just graduated from Warner Robins High School, won $10,000 in scholarship money as part of his award. Now the 18-year-old will compete against four other regional winners this September in Washington, D.C., to be named the National Military Youth of the Year for 2014-2015. That distinction comes with $50,000 in scholarship money.
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“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I’m very excited to represent the Southeast military youth. Everyone who competed was equally qualified, so I’m going to put my best foot forward in representing them.”
Kennedy certainly brings an impressive resume to the competition. His family moved to Warner Robins three years ago when his father, an Air Force colonel, transferred to Robins Air Force Base. Kennedy was named STAR student this year at Warner Robins High School for having the school’s highest SAT score, and his activities included the school’s academic competition team, Beta Club and the debate team.
But his work outside of school is equally impressive.
As a way to socialize after moving to Warner Robins from Virginia, Kennedy went to a meeting of the Keystone Club -- which is affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club -- at the base’s teen center.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “I met a lot of cool people. It was a lot of fun.”
Kennedy soon began doing regular activities at the base as part of the club, such as cleanups and visiting the hospital. When the club would do special projects, such as sending care packages to troops overseas, Hawkins said Kennedy would step up into a leadership role.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get teenagers to agree with each other on how to do a project, Hawkins noted.
“Brendan is a five-star young man,” he said. “He’s very meticulous. The thing that stands out most about Brendan is that when we were sending things to the deployed troops, I liked how he interacted with his peers. He not only got everyone to agree on how do the project, but he insisted that everyone give their input before they started.”
Kennedy already has left Warner Robins to get an early college start at the University of California-Berkeley, where he wants to study aeronautics. His goal is, perhaps not surprisingly, ambitious: He wants to become an astronaut.
Kennedy earned an Air Force ROTC scholarship to attend the university, and he will serve for four years once he graduates. It’s something of a family tradition. Besides his father, Kennedy’s mother also served in the Air Force before retiring as a captain.
His college choice also will allow him to be closer to his family, since his father was transferred last month to Los Angeles Air Force Base and the family already has moved to California.
Since Kennedy’s scholarship covers just tuition, the money he already has won as Southeast Youth of the Year -- and may still win if he prevails in the national contest -- will help pay for his room and board in a part of the country with a high cost of living.
“I promise the money will be put to good use,” he said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.