By Valerie Scott
Midwest City Beacon
A local teen has been named the Southwest Military Youth of the Year.
Willow Roe, a recent Carl Albert High School graduate, won the regional competition last week during a convention in Dallas, beating out finalists from other states
Roe was previously was named the Tinker Air Force Base Youth of the Year and the Oklahoma Military Youth of the Year. The honor is given to a determined youth adamant about academic success, community service, exemplary character, and the establishment of long-term goals. The award is only available to those who have served by the Boys and Girls Club of America-associated youth centers on U.S. military installations across the globe.
Her journey to become the Military Youth of the Year began earlier this year when she overcame her own fears of public speaking and applied for the program.
After being nominated as the Tinker Air Force Base Youth of the Year, Roe won the state competition in April. She delivered a three-minute speech about how her local Boys and Girls Club helped her.
At first, Roe shared that she had no intentions of speaking in front of such a large group. However, she found a way to push past her own anxiety in order to help kids that are also in her shoes.
She shared that she would struggle when her father, retired Master Sgt. Duane Roe would be deployed. She found comfort and guidance through the Tinker Youth Center.
“Every time he was deployed, it was hard on me, so I’d go to the Tinker Youth Center, and they’d fill in some of the gaps,” said Roe. “They’d come to my volleyball games. They’d babysit me and take me to get snow cones to take my mind off it.”
After finding guidance through her struggles, Roe aims to provide mental health awareness and face mental health issues surrounding the youth within military communities. She wants to use her platform to inspire others.
“Even with social anxiety like me, kids can still find a way to push past their issues,” said Roe.
Roe would like to use her platform to create workshops designed for children and parents. She hopes to give a safe space in the youth centers.
“Sometimes you can get overwhelmed, and you just need to step back and look at the situation,” said Roe.
Roe shared that it is also important to offer workshops for parents on how to help their children.
“I would like to see more parents giving credit to the struggles their children share, I want to address that even at a young age, we still face large issues,” said Roe.
After attending the Tinker Youth Center since she was a young child, Roe continues to visit as a volunteer. She helps tutor children and assists in the events and activities. She also previously worked as a lifeguard for the pool on the Tinker Air Force Base.
Roe will be attending Spelman College this fall to study elementary education and possibly minor in social work. “I have always loved working with children,” Roe said. “My mother and grandmother worked with kids and I’ve continued to look up to them now.”
She is the daughter of Duane and Becci Roe.