FORT HOOD (July 19, 2013) -- Selected as one of only six finalists in the state of Texas, Ja 'Tyrah Joseph competed and won against other military Boys & Girls Club members for the Texas Youth of the Year title.
Joseph went on to compete in Dallas and became a finalist of the Southwest Region Youth of the Year award. At a special ceremony held at Fort Hood's Bronco Youth Center, Joseph was told she would receive a $28,000 scholarship for college.
Joseph wrote and submitted two essays for the competition. One focused on why a post secondary education is good. The second essay was about what the Boys & Girls Club meant to her and how it helped her to overcome obstacles.
"Ja 'Tyrah is very quiet, but she is outgoing in her own way," said Miriam Washington, Facility Director Bronco Youth Center. "She loves people. She loves giving back and she just likes helping."
Joseph has been a part of Child and Youth Services at Fort Hood for twelve years. This included the Child Development Center, School Age Services and the Middle School Teen Program.
This is the first year that the Boys & Girls Club had a separate youth of the year opportunity for military children. "This is the first time we have been able to separate from the traditional Boys & Girls Club to honor one youth who has done an outstanding job in the community, at school, with family and at the club," said Washington.
"This young lady has worked throughout the year in various projects and has won the award for Fort Hood." According to Joseph, she has over 850 volunteer hours accumulated in the past year. "It means a lot," said Joseph.
"It (volunteering) was something I would be doing anyway, so it feels great that I am being honored for this. I am really excited and overwhelmed to have all these people show up."
Joseph has donated her time at a nursing home, soup kitchen, Hope Pregnancy Center, and a variety of other facilities. She says her favorite is the animal shelter.
"What I was told by a coach of mine when I left 8th grade to come to high school," said Joseph. "She was like, 'don't be a nobody. Get out there and make a name for yourself. Don't just go home after high school and do nothing. If you aren't going to do a sport, go out and volunteer. Do what you can do to get your name out there.'"
Along with volunteering, Joseph also overcame obstacles of having a deployed parent. "The first time my dad left, my mom was pregnant with my brother and it was a high risk pregnancy, so I would watch over her sometimes," said Joseph.
"At 7-years-old, I was basically having to fend for myself and my mom." Friends and staff at Fort Hood's Youth Center helped her cope with her dad being gone.
Joseph says she wants to use the $28,000 to attend dentistry school and get a minor in teaching at Abilene Christian University.
She wants to teach other youth that "you don't always have to have your name out in the community in a negative way. You have to do positive things to get your name out there."