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Amber Buck of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, Navy Asia Youth of the Year.
Amber Buck of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, Navy Asia Youth of the Year. (Courtesy photo)

For the fourth year in a row, a youngster from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, claimed the title of Navy Asia Youth of the Year, beating out peers at Navy bases in Japan, Guam and South Korea.

For a 17-year-old, Amber Buck has a beefy résumé — perfect grades, even with a few college-level classes; an Honor Band clarinetist; member of the Model United Nations, National Honor Society and the principal’s honor roll; and a calendar packed with hours spent volunteering at the library, teen center and helping the homeless in Yokohama.

“I try to volunteer as much as I can,” she said two weeks after she learned of the achievement earlier this month. “I like helping people.”

As the Navy’s pick for Youth of the Year, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in partnership with The Reader’s Digest Foundation, Buck next competes against those selected from the other service branches. The winner at that level earns a $1,000 scholarship. Progressing another level to the regional championship would mean a $10,000 scholarship, and winning at the national title means another $15,000.

Buck says mostly she just hopes to be a good role model, maybe to some of the younger kids she works with — who could help Atsugi continue its Youth of the Year winning streak.

“I hope to be a role model for them,” she said, to encourage kids “to try hard when they’re older.”

The Zama American High School senior has a 4.2 grade point average, higher than a perfect score of 4.0 because of extra points for advanced classes. She volunteers at the library, teen center and a homeless ministry through which she helps deliver food to homeless people in Yokohama. At Atsugi, she helps create puppet shows for children and tutors youngsters.

To enter the competition, applicants needed nearly a dozen items, including essays and letters of recommendation.

“It’s quite a packet of things,” said Atsugi Teen Center manager Ginger Duhaylonsod, who helps pick teens at Atsugi for the contest.

Youngsters must show they helped improve the community, served their Boys and Girls Club, excelled in school and extracurricular activities and demonstrated good public-speaking skills.

When she entered Buck in the contest, Duhaylonsod never had a doubt.

“I was so confident with Amber,” she said. “She’s just one special, sweet girl. We love her to death.”

Despite that confidence, Duhaylonsod said she was amazed Atsugi won for the fourth time.

“We’re really excited here,” she said.

She plans to present Buck a plaque, pin and official letter at the Teen Center’s talent competition on April 29. About a week later, Buck will start the interview process for the next level of competition.

The honor is treasured, Buck said, but she’s got other important things on her mind, too. She plans to study biology at the University of California at Davis and hopes to be a Navy doctor down the road.

Buck said she would like to see some of her younger friends enter next year.

“I think a lot of people could do it if they tried,” she said.

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