LAYTON—Exceptional youth today will become the leaders of tomorrow. Northridge High School senior Jamal Braxton is well on his way. Braxton was named Air Force Military Child of the Year for 2017.
Braxton was selected from among applicants from around the world who have a parent in the military. Recipients are chosen from each branch of the military.
“You can nominate yourself or someone else can nominate you,” said Braxton. “Someone nominated me. It was the person I volunteered for at the Red Cross in Germany. It was fun to see that come full circle. I really appreciate it.”
The award is given to military children “who have demonstrated themselves as exceptional citizens while facing the challenges of military family life.”
In addition to participating in swimming, cross-country and track, Braxton has been volunteering since he was 12.
“The activities I was doing started out with simple volunteering while we were stationed in Germany,” he said. “I started with the Red Cross when I was in the seventh grade because I really appreciated what they did for the community. It really helped me make a foundation for my morals and values.”
When his family moved back to the U.S. he continued his efforts. “There are even more opportunities here for youth to take on leadership roles,” he said.
Braxton has served with the Red Cross as Northern Utah Youth Co-Chair for Services to Armed Forces, Northern Utah Youth Co-Chair for International Services, Student Staff for Red Cross Leadership development Camp, Member for the American Red Cross of Northern Utah Board of Directors, and the Northern Utah Youth Co-President. He also earned the Commander’s Leadership Award for the 52nd Fighter Wing Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany in 2013 and 2014.
Moving around the world has been both challenging and rewarding. “I was born in Germany and at 2 years old or so we moved to Florida,” he said. “I lived in Japan from kindergarten to fifth grade then went back to Germany from sixth to ninth grade. Then we moved to Utah for high school. Although moving around has been stressful, it’s the highlight of being a military kid. You get involved with the culture around you – the people, food and sites. With that, you become more culturally aware. Having lived overseas, it’s probably more foreign for me coming to the U.S. than most people.”
As part of the award, Braxton receives $10,000, a laptop and other gifts. He will also fly to Washington, D.C. for a week of activities and the award presentation at a special gala.
“We’ll be going to museums and touring D.C.,” he said. “It will be really fun and the highlight is on April 6 with the awards ceremony.”
Braxton has already received multiple acceptance letters from a variety of universities throughout the country but hasn’t settle on one yet.
“The majority are out of state,” he said. “My top choices would be Baylor, Trinity or the United States Air Force Academy. My interest is in the medical field. I aspire to be a neurosurgeon. It’s a long education – I’m aware of that – but I’m ready for the challenge. It’s an important motivator.”