MacDill’s Youth of the Year competing at bigger stage

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Grossklag
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


Each year, MacDill Air Force Base’s youth center and the Boys and Girls Club of America nominates one motivated military child between the ages of 14 and 18 as their Youth of the Year.

This year's winner, 2020 high school graduate Emmanuel Washington, not only took home the prize of being MacDill’s distinguished youth, but also was awarded the Florida Military Youth of Year.

“Emmanuel competed against five other military bases in the state of Florida to earn the title and received a $5,000 scholarship as he heads to college,” said Harold Hug, the 6th Force Support Squadron director of youth programs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth center staff and children have been physically separated, creating complications in maintaining clubs and programs. Programs have continued through video conferences to keep lines of communication open for members like Washington; the process for competing for Florida Military Youth of the Year was also accomplished via video.

“Emmanuel won thanks to a combination of his contributions to the youth center through volunteering in the community and as a leader of the Keystone Club and he delivered a speech via Zoom conference to a panel of judges who were blown away by his dedication,” said Hug.

Washington has lived most of his life in the MacDill and Tampa Bay community, and his love for all of Tampa Bay is what fuels his dedication to support.

“Tampa is my home and I always see myself coming back here someday,” said Washington. “It means just about everything to me to be involved with the youth center and other military children. We’ve had great times as a group and we connect with people from all over the world. Combine that with the experiences I’ve had with the community, it’s really a great feeling.”

Although separated from the youth center staff and members, Washington’s involvement with the youth center has not faltered.

“When everything closed, I had to figure out any way I could to expand horizons during this quarantine,” said Washington. “I’m trying to stay involved as much as I can, trying to find ways to make the programs we have even better for kids after me.”

Washington aims towards the next objective, as with his Florida Military Youth of the Year win, he will compete for the Southeast regional award looking to share his achievements with other military youth from Florida’s neighboring states.