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Parker Knight secures Youth of the Year

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Gage Adison Daniel
  • 27th Special Operations Wing

“Winning this was big for Parker,” said Desiree Sena, the youth center teen coordinator. “When he first came, he was quiet and kept to himself, but over time, and through basketball and other activities, he’s opened up a lot and became more comfortable competing for Youth of the Year.”


The Military Youth of the Year honor is a part of the Boys and Girls Club of America Youth of the Year program. It celebrates young people of military installations around the world, ages 14 to 18, for their commitment to community service, academic success, good character and citizenship and establishing long-term goals.


One of the key influences on Parker that eventually helped him win the title was his military upbringing and the values that his parents instilled within him. Parker is the son of Senior Master Sgt. Shakia Knight and Master Sgt. James Knight.


“The military values my parents have taught me have stuck with me pretty well and helped me become a better me,” Parker said.


“Excellence in all I do” has been the most important and driving value for Parker.


“I’m more disciplined because of this value,” Parker said. “My parents taught me that if I want something, I’ve got to work hard for it and that’s exactly what I did.”


However, working hard doesn’t always mean physical effort alone; it can also be emotional or mental performance.


“Being a military child has made me have to speak more and get way more out of my comfort zone than I ever thought,” Parker said.


Moving around a lot, having to make new friends and attend new schools helped Parker overcome some of his reserved behavior. A big factor in this push was the Cannon AFB youth center where through basketball and other activities, he was able to gradually open up more and more.


“I’m proud of him for doing this and stepping out of his usual routine,” Sena said. “Seeing him go from quiet and reserved to a friend to everyone and eventually becoming more confident really made him stand out while we were selecting the winner for this competition.”


Another quality that has aided Parker in his personal life is leadership. With both of his parents serving as senior non-commissioned officers, they’ve taught him a thing or two about it.


“To me, a good leader shows his young siblings the way, has good self control, leads by example and, most importantly, understands sacrifice,” Parker said. ‘With the teachings of my parents and the help of the youth center, I’ve become more confident in my leadership abilities.”


Through the youth center’s volunteer events, he has been able to take charge during some of the functions, hone his leadership skills and learn to lead by example.


“He’s helped a lot and stepped up for some bigger roles during some of our volunteer events such as various food and clothing drives, a color run and baking cookies for security forces,” Sena said. “Parker is very responsible, so he took charge and did what needed to be done.”


After winning the Cannon YOTY competition, he moved onto the state level in Santa Fe, N.M., where he competed against the winners from Holloman and Kirtland AFB.

For this leg of the competition he had to answer questions regarding his essays in front of judges and the next day give a speech about them in front of judges and an audience of 100 or so.


Initially, Parker was nervous, but through the self confidence he had recently gained and what he had learned from the youth center, he was able to finish his speech and even received a standing ovation.


Unfortunately, he did not win at state level, but he did learn a few things from the experience.


“It helped me break out of my shell,” Parker said. “I was thinking of whether or not to do it and I ended up choosing to do it. It was a lot but I’m glad I did it.”


Parker plans to continue stepping out of his comfort zone and pushing himself to do and be better to set an example for other kids who may be struggling with some of the same issues.


“You’ve only got one life and you have to make the most of it,” Parker said. “Do it now so you don’t regret it later.”