By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — In the room of nearly 200 people waiting to hear the name of the Boys & Girls Club Military Youth of the Year for Colorado, only one of them was surprised to hear the name Jennifer Choate announced as the winner: Jennifer Choate.
Choate, the Boys & Girls Club Military Youth of the Year for Peterson Air Force Base, was named winner at the state competition March 24 in Denver. She will now compete at the Southwest Regionals June 22-26 in San Antonio, Texas, against winners from Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Montana. Regional winners will get a $10,000 renewable scholarship totaling $40,000 and travel to the national level in Washington, D.C. The national Military Youth of the Year winner will add a $20,000 scholarship to previous winnings. For winning at the state level she won $9,000 in scholarships and, along with all other competitors, a laptop computer.
She could not eat anything during the announcement breakfast following her speech. The top two competitors are asked to give their speeches in front of the breakfast audience before the winner is named, so her nervousness kept her appetite down.
“I’m done, it’s over,” she recalled thinking as her name was announced. “The second day should be a breeze because (the competition) is done, but it’s not. You want to win.”
When Choate’s name was called she looked for her father, but could not see him. It turns out he was briefing Choate’s mother on the progress and stepped out to get a better cell phone signal. As luck would have it that is the moment when they announced his daughter won.
“My dad wasn’t there, but I was focused,” Choate explained. “I was focused on not tripping. I did not want to fall down.”
Being a competitor at the event last year was helpful to her. She knew what to do and what was coming up so she was better able to concentrate on her presentation and interview. Since last year she did more public speaking which helped as well, she said.
The most memorable part of the competition, other than winning, was spending time with her competitors. Since she serves in various leadership roles she often works with other youth, but usually it is not face-to-face. Being able to put names with faces was something Choate valued from the experience. She also wanted to become comfortable with the competition.
“It’s a competition, but it should be fun,” she said.
Choate said she was excited to advance to the next level of competition, saying she will approach the regionals like she did the state event.
“It’s going to be interesting to say the least,” Choate said.
There will be some changes in her presentations, however, based on things she noticed in her competitor’s speeches. For example she will tweak her speech to include more of the community related work she is involved with.
Her three-minute speech at the state event addressed challenges she overcame and how involvement in the Boys & Girls Club helped her.
“Each (young person) has a story, some riddled with challenges that could easily be used as excuses,” said Connie Rule, Boys & Girls Clubs of Colorado executive director. “I can assure you these youth are not broken or damaged. They have a vision for the future. They have passion. They are talented and driven. They are fierce. I am humbled to have played a role in this milestone on their life journey.”
After high school Choate plans to attend the Air Force Academy with the goal of becoming an Air Force pediatrician and flight surgeon. Choate is a field hockey player for Cheyenne Mountain High School, and she hopes to continue her career in the sport at collegiate level.