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RaShaan Allen has long been a member of a special club. And now that club has gotten a lot more exclusive.
Allen, a recent graduate of Fort Knox High School, was named the 2013-14 Midwest Military Youth of the Year, an award given by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Allen will go on to compete in Washington, D.C. in September for a national award.
The process for the Military Youth of the Year award begins at the community level. Along with considerations like community service and grades, students are judged on speeches and interviews that detail how they overcame adversity in their lives.
Allen discussed a series of events in his life in his speech, including his mother’s deployment, not having a father figure in his life, moving eight times in one year, and living in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. Allen said he was interested in pursuing the award because he had struggled through tough times in his life and he wanted an opportunity to help someone else.
Allen was chosen to proceed to the state competition in May and then to the Midwest regional competition this month.
“I was ecstatic, because it had been my goal to make it to regionals the whole time,” he said.
The regional competition in Chicago provided time for fun, like touring U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox, as well as service work like assisting a food pantry, he said.
Despite facing off with other students in the process, Allen said he viewed the experience as an opportunity to tell his story.
“Well, I didn’t really look at it as a competition,” he said.
Allen was announced as the Midwest winner at a dinner in Chicago.
“It’s like I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s like, there are so many amazing people and they chose me of all people.”
Allen is a member of a club at Fort Knox Devers Youth Center and has been for five years.
“My friends tricked me into going one day, and I ended up going, and I liked it ever since,” he said.
He credits the club with helping him to raise his GPA and getting him involved in sports.
“The club has always been there,” he said. “It’s my home away from home.”
He believes he wouldn’t be attending college if it weren’t for the club. He is now a student at Western Kentucky University, and through the award received $11,000 in scholarships. He is planning on majoring in political science and minoring in theater. He has long had an interest in law and politics, and he would like to attend law school after college.
Allen is also a preferred walk-on on the WKU football team. He began playing football his freshman year at Fort Knox, but said he only began taking the sport truly seriously in his senior year, when his coach said he had an opportunity to play in college.
Allen’s trip to D.C. in the fall will include visiting the Pentagon and meeting President Barack Obama. Now that he has surpassed his goal of reaching regionals, he only has one goal left.
“To go the whole way, to win it all,” he said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT RASHAAN ALLEN
Place of birth: Greenville, Ala.
Favorite place he’s lived: New Orleans, La.
Favorite films: “Safe Haven,” “The Notebook” and “The Vow”
Favorite musician: Taylor Swift
Why should people join or support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America? Because the Boys & Girls Club makes a positive influence in everyone's life. The Boys & Girls Clubs actually are where great futures start.