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We caught up with Juanita Collins, Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year® Award for the Coast Guard in 2014. She has been attending University of South Florida, where she is a junior, majoring in biomedical sciences. She plans to graduate in fall 2019, and is still determining her post-graduation plans. She is a second-year resident assistant, president of the National Residence Hall Honorary, and recently joined an acapella singing group. She also has a shadowing position at Bayside Urgent Care Center in Clearwater, Florida. Juanita thanked Operation Homefront for helping make all this possible, and shares what she learned from other award recipients — and shares some advice of her own :

OH: What has been the biggest change in your life since receiving the award

JC: The biggest change in my life since 2014 has definitely been the transition into college life and figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s quite different living on your own and learning how to be independent. I absolutely love my school. Through my undergraduate experience so far, I have learned a lot about myself and about life in general.

OH: Tell us about a fond memory you have from traveling to Washington, D.C., for the gala.

JC: My favorite memory from the Washington trip for gala weekend was probably being up on the stage with my family to receive my award. Throughout that trip, I knew it was special because I was able to share that experience and accomplishment with the people who meant the most to me. It wouldn’t have been the same without them.

OH: You have always been an active volunteer with various organizations. Do you still have time to volunteer, or to help military families?

JC: My most recent plan to help military families is to volunteer at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa, Florida, when I have time during the weekends. The VA hospital is very close to my school, so that is the least I can do to pay it forward.

OH: Have other military children ever given you advice you valued?

JC: My favorite piece of advice that I’ve gotten from another military child is to be giving. The other recipients from 2014 all displayed such giving hearts, and that’s something I always admired. For example, Kenzie Hall, the Army recipient, created a nonprofit to grant dream wishes to military kids who had a parent injured or killed in combat. That was something that I loved just seeing how young she was and how full of compassion; she was such an example. What I have learned is to always have a giving heart. No bad has ever come out of helping others.

OH: What advice would you give future MCOY award recipients?

JC: For future recipients, I would give the advice to have fun on your trip. It’s a great honor to be recognized, so continue to be awesome. Never take these opportunities for granted, and use the scholarship to do what you really want to do with your life, not what you think your parents want for you to do in school and what career they want for you, and not what you feel will impress your friends or make people think more highly of you. Use that scholarship and put that money toward what you’re passionate about, what you can imagine yourself doing for the rest of your life. Only you truly know that. But also, never doubt yourself. If you choose a major or career path that seems super hard, and you’re scared that you might not make it; go for it. Don’t be afraid to reach a goal because of the time it’ll take to accomplish; the time will pass anyway. Work hard and be determined, and stay focused! Hold that title with pride.

OH: What would you say to your past or future self?

JC: I wish I could say the above advice to my past self. I really could have used this advice, but I’m glad that I learned it while life went on, even if it was the hard way. To my future self, I would like to say, “Wherever you are, I’m glad you’re there. I’m sure it was a tough path to get to where you are, and I’m proud of you.”

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Nominations are now open for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® awards.

Our prestigious award will recognize 7 outstanding young people ages 13 to 18. Six of them will represent a branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their achievements while facing the challenges of military family life. The 7th award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton which will honor a young patriot who has designed a bold, creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge.

Nominate today at http://bit.ly/2cKII81 Deadline to apply is Dec. 4, 2017.

Recipients of the Military Child of the Year® awards will receive $10,000 and a trip to DC for our special awards gala. The recipient of the Innovation Award will receive a $10,000 cash award, donated gifts, and a trip to Washington, DC with a parent or guardian and assistance from Booz Allen Hamilton to advance their project. #MCOY2018

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Fire up your keyboards and help us honor the achievements and contributions of our country’s military children.

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Military Child of the Year® awards.

Now in its 10th year, our prestigious award will recognize 7 outstanding young people ages 13 to 18. Anyone can nominate. And we mean anyone: Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, besties, teachers, pastors, coaches, neighbors, employers…you name it. Let’s rally and share the stories of our amazing military kids.

New or never heard of Military Child of the Year? Well, here are some details:

Six military children will be awarded the Military Child of the Year Award, one for each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their achievements while facing the challenges of military family life .  The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by our friends at Booz Allen Hamilton.

To give you an idea of some of those challenges, the average Military Child of the Year® Award Nominee has moved four times or more and experienced at least one parent deploy for a combined 29 months or more*. (And we have recipients with dual military parents!)

Some of our past Military Child of the Year® award recipients have dealt with serious and life threatening health issues, suffered loss, become caregivers to wounded parents, or stepped up in major ways to support their families through deployments and multiple relocations.  All the while, the stellar young men and women have maintained excellent grades, often with honors, excelled in sports, theatre and/or music, held leadership positions in school and community groups, and volunteered tremendous hours to causes near and dear to them.

You can read more about past recipients here.

The  Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation   goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. Last year’s recipient built, planted, maintained and harvested 22 raised vegetable gardens at low-income daycare centers and shelters in their local community, and another provided accessibility ramps and other home modifications to children’s homes, which are not covered by Tricare, the military health insurance .

Recipients of the MCOY awards will receive $10,000 and a trip to DC for our special awards gala (see pics from last year). The recipient of the Innovation Award will receive $10,000, a trip for DC for the gala and assistance from Booz Allen Hamilton to advance their project.

Nominate today your favorite military kid today!  Help us promote it  on Facebook and Twitter so we can reach as many families as possible.  Use #MCOY2018 to join the conversation. Deadline to apply is Dec. 4, 2017.

We can’t wait to be inspired by your nominations!

*2017 nominee average

 

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At the age of 11, Sophie Bernstein asked her parents to start a garden. Her parents, Navy Reserves Capt. Brad Bernstein and Moira Bernstein, initially dismissed the request. Perhaps they thought the work of planting, weeding and harvesting would ultimately fall on them. Or maybe they envisioned a sad overgrown mess, due to neglect.

But Sophie persisted, and they gave in. Now 17 years old, Sophie’s green thumb grew into a remarkable bounty, not only for her family but also for hundreds of others in her community.

“When I explained to my parents that I would oversee all the garden tasks and that I wanted to donate the vegetables I grew to a food bank, they agreed to let me grow my first raised vegetable garden bed in 2012. For the past four years, I have expanded my project to 22 gardens at low-income preschools, daycares and emergency shelters for children in the metropolitan St. Louis region.”

For that extraordinary effort, she’s been chosen to receive Operation Homefront’s 2017 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton.

So far, Sophie has donated more than 13,570 pounds of produce to local food banks and to families in need. Sophie’s innovation has raised awareness of childhood hunger in the community, and it has increased the volume of fresh and healthy produce available at food banks and at child care facilities.

Sophie believes that everyone can make an impact and a difference in improving the world at any age, at any time. Her favorite quote from Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” reminds her that Anne was only a teenager when she wrote a book that would have a huge impact on the world.

“Too often we underestimate the impact a simple gesture can have in another,” said Sophie.
Sophie’s project has been a hands-on learning lab for children, as she has led 225 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) botany and plant science workshops for young children throughout the year. In the process, students at low-income preschools are engaged in building, planting and maintaining produce gardens.

But she didn’t stop there. Sophie and her siblings started a website called http://www.volunteennation.org/ to engage youth throughout the nation in service. Using social media, they try to activate and mobilize youth in service. So far, they have recruited 785 teen volunteers from area high schools to help with the gardens and with the plant science workshops.

Sophie exemplifies the passion and resilience seen in so many military kids. Her family’s legacy of military service not only includes her dad, but also her sister serves in the Navy and both of her grandfathers were active in the Air Force and Army.

As part of the Award for Innovation, Sophie will receive a mentorship by Booz Allen Hamilton employees to scale or to advance her gardening and service projects. We can’t wait to see where Sophie’s passion to help others will take her next!

Operation Homefront would like to thank presenting sponsor, United Technologies, for their support of Military Child of the Year®.  Support from companies like United Technologies and all of our MCOY sponsors is invaluable in helping us showing appreciation for the contributions our military families make to our communities.

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BAHInnov2

Operation Homefront and Booz Allen Hamilton are pleased to announce that the inaugural recipient of the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children is Elizabeth O’Brien, of Aberdeen, NC.

 

The Operation Homefront-Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children goes to a military child who has designed a bold, creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. With a new invention, improvement to existing technology, creation of a new nonprofit or community service group or expansion of an existing membership organization, the winner shows the power of innovative thinking.

BAHInnov1Elizabeth’s innovation is the Military Child Access Assistance Program. In partnership with the nonprofit Military Missions in Action (MMIA), this program provides accessibility ramps and other home modifications to children’s homes, which are not covered by Tricare. In addition, Elizabeth developed the Hike2Help 5K, which has raised over $7,000 and funded three accessibility ramps, in addition to other accessibility modifications.

Booz Allen Hamilton will host Elizabeth at their Innovation Center in Washington, D.C. on April 13. Additionally, Booz Allen Hamilton employees will assist the winner to scale or advance her project. She will receive a $5,000 grant and be recognized at the Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala on April 14.

Congratulations to Elizabeth!

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It is always a special day when we get to announce the recipients of our annual Military Child of the Year ® Award. Every year, we are awed by the accomplishments of all our nominees, and it never gets easier choosing just six to represent the virtues of resiliency, leadership and achievement that we know are exhibited every day by military children around the world. But choose we must, and so without further ado, it is our great honor to present this year’s recipients for the Military Child of the Year award for each branch of service:

MCOY Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer army website image 225 x 281ARMY

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer

 

 

 

 

MCOY christian fagala marines website image 225 x 281MARINE CORPS

Christian Fagala

 

 

 

 

MCOY jeffrey burds navy website image 225 x 281NAVY

Jeffrey Burds

 

 

 

 

MCOY Madeleine Morlino2 AF website image 225 x 281AIR FORCE                                                                          

Madeleine Morlino

 

 

 

 

MCOY aaron fike CG website image 225 x 281COAST GUARD

Keegan Fike

 

 

 

 

MCOY john trip landon NG website image 225 x 281NATIONAL GUARD

John “Trip” Landon III

 

 

 

 

“The children in our military families demonstrate the best in our society and our Military Child of the Year® Award recipients are extraordinary representatives of this spirit of selfless service,” said Brig Gen (ret) John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “They perform at a very high level both in and out of school while simultaneously dealing with parental deployments, recurring relocations, and other challenges associated with military life. I can’t wait to meet these outstanding young people and present them with their well-deserved awards.”

Each award recipient will receive $10,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., for a special recognition gala on April 14. United Technologies Corp. is the presenting sponsor for the Military Child of the Year® Awards Gala. Other sponsors are Wounded, Warrior Project, Southern New Hampshire University, Murphy-Goode Winery, MidAtlanticBroadband, La Quinta Inns & Suites, and Aflac. Operation Homefront will also present the inaugural Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children at the gala, the recipient of which will be announced next week.

Check back soon as we spotlight each recipient heading up to our awards gala in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2016.

Congratulations to all of our recipients!

 

 

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Whether you have been with us on our journey for a while or are new to discover us, we’d like to share a bit of what we do, how we made a difference in 2015, and what we look forward to in 2016:

1. We help make dreams come true

gettingtoknowusblog1picIn 2015, Operation Homefront awarded 95 mortgage-free homes to veteran families through our Homes on the Homefront program. On average, Operation Homefront awards between 80-100 homes each year thanks to the support of our partners. As those families complete a two-year program, they earn the deed to their home – 102 families completed that process last year. We are excited to be awarding our 500th home this month.

2. We’re here to help military families get through tough times.

Last year, we provided more than $4.2 million in emergency assistance grants to more than 2,300 families who hit a bump in the road and needed help with rent or mortgage payments, major home or car repairs, utility bills or buying food for their families.

We know that the holidays can be tough for our military families. In 2015, more than 10,420 children received toys at Holiday Toy Drive events, and 11,000 families received meals through various programs throughout the year, including our Holiday Meals for Military events.

3. We help families cope with the visible and invisible wounds of war.

Our Hearts of Valor program, which provides support to caregivers of wounded veterans, has grown to more than 2,600 participants, giving them vital connections to others who understand their unique challenges.

Transition from service continues to be a significant challenge for our post 9/11 veterans. More than 80 percent of the families assisted through our emergency assistance program were those with a wounded service member.

In 2015, Operation Homefront placed 111 families in one of our rent-free, transitional Operation Homefront Villages, providing critical security and time for our veterans to heal and focus on their futures.

gettingtoknowusblog2pic4. We remember the military child.

The start of a New Year brings with it the start of the Military Child of the Year Award season. We just announced this year’s semifinalists for the 2016 Military Child of the Year Award and in April, we will spotlight these incredible military children for the 8th year in a row at our gala in DC. In addition, this year, we are being joined by Booz Allen Hamilton who will award the inaugural Innovation Award to a military child.

One of our favorite times of the year is our annual Back-To-School Brigade campaign in the summer. In 2015, we provided more than 31,000 military kids with backpacks filled with school supplies.

5. We honor the role of the military spouse.

We were honored to help welcome new bundles of joy for over 1,000 military moms in 2015 at our Star-Spangled Babies baby showers. More than 600 spouses enjoyed nights of relaxation and fun at our Homefront Celebrations, including those in Tacoma, WA. This year, Homefront Celebrations and our amazing baby showers will return for another year of honoring those who hold down the homefront.

gettingtoknowusblog3pic6. We cover America!

Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas and Washington, DC, Operation Homefront serves every state from 17 locations across the country supported by 2,500 + volunteers.

What’s next?

We know there is still more work to be done. Every day, across America, Operation Homefront employees, volunteers and supporters are making great strides to help those that give so much for our nation. Our troops and their families are counting on us and it makes us very happy to know we’ll be there for them.

Your commitment will be crucial, especially with the ever-changing landscape of global threats and budget battles that impact our military and veteran families on a very deep level.

Here’s to building on the many successes we enjoyed in 2015 and continuing our journey in 2016.

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mcoy-2016-blog-semi-finalist-operation-homefront

Last year’s recipients enjoy their moment in the spotlight. We can’t wait to see who the torch will be passed to in April in Washington, D.C.

Here at Operation Homefront, the New Year doesn’t just bring with it the anticipation of what can be but also the excitement of Military Child of the Year award season.

For the past 8 years, we have been amazed and inspired by the stories of thousand of military children and how they demonstrate resilience and strength of character, and leadership within their families and within their communities. All while facing of the challenges of military life.

In short, we have our work cut out for us.  And it begins in earnest today with the announcing our semifinalists for the 2016 Military Child of the Year® Award. So without further ado, here they are:

 

ARMY

Mary T., 17, Wahiawa, Hawaii

Elissa N., 16, Sparta, Wis.

Hunter H., 14, Lansing, Kan.

Emalee H., 17, Elizabethtown, Ky.

Asia H., 12, West Point, N.Y.

Lorelei M., 10, Duncannon, Pa.

Jaccob H., 15, Saucier, Miss.

Gabrielle L., 17, Shavano Park, Texas

Hannah J., 17, Valrico, Fla.

Olivia D., 18, Hattiesburg, Miss.

Amari M., 15, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Elizabeth O., 17, Aberdeen, N.C.

Jennifer L., 17, Enterprise, Ala.

Paris S., 8, Cameron, N.C.

Antoinette K., 10, Vine Grove, Ky.

 

MARINE CORPS

 Carson B., 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Summer L., 17, Kailua, Hawaii

Christian F., 9, Quantico, Va.

Peter B., 18, Havelock, N.C.

Grace F., 17, Swansboro, N.C.

Haylee M., 12, San Diego, Calif.

Matthew C., 17, Jacksonville, N.C.

Caitlyn T., 14, Quantico, Va.

Cherita W., 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

GaBryella D., 13, Temecula, Calif.

Jewell D., 15, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Madison A., 13, Fredericksburg, Va.

Jenna A., 12, Houston, Texas

Jackson B., 16, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

 

NAVY

Elizabeth E., 15, Mc Donald, Pa.

Mariah W., 17, New Bern, N.C.

Isabelle R., 11, Jamul, Calif.

Evan P. 17, Phoenix, Ariz.

Benedict C., 17, Coronado, Calif.

Victoria B., 17, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Jeffrey B., 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Michael J., 17, Stafford, Va.

Benjamin P., 17, Lakeland, Tenn.

Samantha R., 18, Fleming Island, Fla.

Alexsandra C., 17, Springfield, Va.

Adriel M., 17, O Fallon, Ill.

Gavin M., 18, Virginia Beach, Va.

Ty B., 14, FPO, AE, Rota, Spain

Sydney C., 8, Jacksonville, Fla.

 

AIR FORCE

Madeline G., 18, Springfield, Va.

Grace R., 11, APO, AE, Ramstein, Germany

Bethany S., 18, Beale AFB, Calif.

David Z. , 17, San Antonio, Texas

Lacey L., 17, Milton, Fla.

Bridget R., 17, Burke, Va.

Caroline S., 10, Las Vegas, Nev.

Jordyn M., 9

Makayla J., 9, Ruther Glen, Va.

Jamal B., 17, Hill AFB, Utah

Hailie W., 16, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Madeleine M., 17, Moorestown, N.J.

Tristan T., 15, Sahuarita, Ariz.

Alyssa O., 16, Panama City, Fla.

Matthew N., 17, Spokane, Wash.

 

COAST GUARD

John M., 17, Annapolis, Md.

Spenser R., 18, Davie, Fla.

Chase M., 17, McLean, Va.

Kievon B., 15, Lodi, N.J.

Jessica P., 17, West Seneca, N.Y.

Gabriel N., 13, Bennington, Vt.

Jackson H., 15, Jacksonville, Fla.

Keegan F., 17, Fairhaven, Mass.

Jessie P., 16, Bayamon, Puerto Rico

Liam C., 13, New Orleans, La.

Olivia K., 18, Grangeville, Idaho

Kylie M., 14, Trenton, N.J.

Ashley F., 17, Warrenton, Ore.

Qur’Annah J., 17, Frankfort, Ill.

Giavanna V., 10, Mystic, Conn.

 

NATIONAL GUARD 

Joshua T., 15, Rolla, Mo.

Michelle G., 18, Green Cove Springs, Fla.,

Tymber L., 18, Lincoln, Neb.

John L., 17, Ellensburg, Wash.

Madeline N., 18, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Nathan M., 17, Orange Park, Fla.

Mya K., 18, Yorba Linda, Calif.

Lily M., 14, Portland, Ore.

Sarah B., 17, Glen Carbon, Ill.

Molly F., 15, Pickerington, Ohio

Madison O., 9, Pembroke, N.H.

Sydney L., 17, Lincoln, Neb.

Jodi J., 17, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Amelia B., 15, Saint Augustine, Fla.

Jordan G., 8, Virginia Beach, Va.

 

So now that we have our 90 semifinalists, what’s next?

Each semifinalist will be interviewed by a team selected by Operation Homefront staff. Award recipients will be chosen by a panel of judges, to include senior retired service members, senior spouses, members of Operation Homefront’s board of directors, and other leaders in the military support community.

The top 5 finalists from each branch will be announced in February.  Winners will be announced in March and then on to the big gala in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2016.

This year, the gala will present the inaugural Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Award for Military Children. The Booz Allen Innovation Award for Military Children will go to a military child who has designed a bold, creative solution to address a local, regional or global challenge. With a new invention, improvement to existing technology, creation of a new nonprofit or community service group or expansion of an existing membership organization, the winner will show the power of innovative thinking. Booz Allen will award a grant to the winner and host the winner at the Booz Allen Innovation Center in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Booz Allen employees will assist the winner in helping to scale or advance the project.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Military Child of the Year Award and read about our past recipients at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.  Or check our pictures from last year’s festivities here.

Congratulations to all of our Military Child of the Year semi-finalists! Great job!

 

 

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