Selfless volunteer wins Youth of the Year award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Frances Locquiao
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Proving it's never too early to become a role model, a Moody teenager is already setting the example for the children at Moody's Youth Center.

Michael Brunelle, son of Master Sgt. Daryl Brunelle, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, recently received the base's Boys and Girls Club of America Youth of the Year award for his achievements.

He will also be representing Moody against other youth in Air Combat Command and the Air Force, as well as in the BGCA state, regional and national levels.

The award is based on academics, involvement in youth programs and community service such as volunteering, said Amy Thompson, the center's youth programmer.

"He's hard-working and has so much enthusiasm," she said. "For the past three years, I've seen him grow to become a positive role model around the youth."

The 17-year-old junior at Lowndes High School is president of Moody's Keeping Every Youth Strongly Tuned in on National Excellence, or KEYSTONE club, a teen leadership and community service program. He is also a member of the youth employment skills program, where college-bound students have the opportunity to earn money for college.

He has participated in many events around Moody and the Valdosta community.

"The most memorable community service I've done was the 'Roof Sit' at Lowe's, where we had buckets to collect money for the United Way," he said. "Not only did it help Valdosta residents, but people around the country."

Michael began his involvement at the Youth Center when he moved to Moody's base housing in September 2005.

"He started going to the center for small events such as Kids' Night Out," said Jenny Brunelle, Michael's mother. "Not long after, it became his second home because he would be there until it closed."

Despite being a part of his high school's wrestling team and having practice everyday, he still found time to go to the center.

"I thought that helping out there would be a better use of my free time," Michael said. "I'd stay behind to help out the staff in anything they needed."

Other than volunteering and being a helping hand at the Youth Center, Michael also works hard to help his mom while his dad is away.

"Since his dad is constantly deploying and has been on temporary duty assignments, he's become the 'man of the house,'" said Mrs. Brunelle. "Michael often baby-sits his two younger sisters and does anything I ask him to. I couldn't have done it without him."

In addition to the award, Michael received a laptop, donated by the Valdosta Sunrise Rotary Club, for his accomplishments.

"It was cool when I found out that I would be receiving a laptop," he said. "I didn't expect that my hard work would pay off that much."

Even though his family will transfer to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., in July, he plans to continue to be an active volunteer and assistant at the center.

"The award has encouraged Michael to continue doing good things for the community and for the Youth Center," said Mrs. Brunelle. "He feels good about himself when helps others. I am very proud of how much he has matured to a young man."