Coast Guard daughter awarded for Military Child of the Year

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Co-authored by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael De Nyse and Lt. Stephanie Young

Juanita Collins is one busy teenager. She’s a class president, varsity volleyball captain, athlete-scholar, a capella singer, hospice volunteer and Sunday school teacher. She’s worked on projects with the Key Club, Relay for Life, food banks, Ronald McDonald House and Salvation Army. Amongst this dizzying array of school, athletic and volunteer activities, Juanita maintains a 4.5 cumulative weighted GPA. That’s a lot of responsibility for any person, not to mention a teenager; however, Juanita is not just a teenager; she’s a Coast Guard daughter.

Juanita Collins, the Coast Guard's Military Child of the Year for 2014, smiles for a photo while her mother, Chief Petty Officer Tafaoga Collins, a yeoman at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., is interviewed at the station Tuesday, April 1, 2014. From a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, Collins was chosen as the 2014 Coast Guard's military child of the year by a committee of active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael De Nyse)

Juanita Collins, the Coast Guard’s Military Child of the Year for 2014, smiles for a photo while her mother, Chief Petty Officer Tafaoga Collins, a yeoman at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., is interviewed at the station Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael De Nyse)

Due to all Junita’s hard work and dedication, she was presented with the 2014 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year award at the sixth annual Operation Homefront gala at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA., April 10.

In addition to the trip to our nation’s capital, recipients are awarded a laptop and a $5,000 cash prize.

Juanita has learned a lot about service to both community and nation as the daughter of a Coast Guard chief petty officer.

“Juanita has a heart to serve,” said Chief Petty Officer Tafaoga Collins, Juanita’s mother. “I see in her that she has a heart to serve others and make a difference when she can.”

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses with her mother, Chief Petty Officer Tafaoga Collins, a yeoman at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., at the station Tuesday, April 1, 2014. From a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, Collins was chosen as the 2014 Coast Guard's military child of the year by a committee of active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael De Nyse)

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses with her mother, Chief Petty Officer Tafaoga Collins, a yeoman at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., at the station Tuesday, April 1, 2014. .(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael De Nyse)

Tafaoga, a member of Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, is a very proud mother. She has seen Juanita receive the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award for Pinellas County in 2013 in addition to Juanita’s selection as a member of the Ryan Nece Foundation from both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

From a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, each award recipient was chosen by a committee including active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers and community members.

“The sons and daughters of America’s service members learn at a very young age what it means to be a patriot,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “These children thrive in the face of the challenges of military life with grace and courage and use that experience to become leaders in their communities. The Military Child of the Year Award honors their resiliency.”

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses with her guidance counselor, Courtney Ward, in front of her high school in Largo, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. From a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, Collins was chosen as the 2014 Coast Guard's military child of the year by a committee of active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Meredith Manning)

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses with her guidance counselor, Courtney Ward, in front of her high school in Largo, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Meredith Manning)

Juanita was nominated by Courtney Ward, her guidance counselor at the Exploring Careers and Education in Leadership magnet program at Largo High School.

Ward states Juanita is “a young woman of talent, character and integrity” and is constantly working to be “the best version of herself that she can be.” “One of the things that stood out to me from the moment I met Juanita is her openness to absorb every piece of information that is presented to her,” said Ward. “When I do classroom presentations, I always notice Juanita listening intently, taking notes and asking great questions. Her curiosity and desire to learn is truly what sets students like Juanita apart from the pack.”

Currently a senior, Juanita has been accepted to the University of Tampa, and has applied to UCLA. Her dream is to become a pediatrician. As she prepares for the next steps in her life, she finds inspiration in her mother.

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses in front of her high school in Largo, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. From a pool of nearly 1,000 nominees, Collins was chosen as the 2014 Coast Guard's military child of the year by a committee of active duty and retired military personnel, spouses of senior military leaders, veteran service organization leadership, teachers, and community members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Meredith Manning)

Juanita Collins, Coast Guard Military Child of the Year, poses in front of her high school in Largo, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Meredith Manning)

“I could honestly write a novel on how my mom has influenced me,” said Juanita. “My mom is the most inspiring person to me, and will always be. There will never be enough thanks or words or gifts that could ever give back to my mom what she’s instilled in me. She has shown me that hard work, determination and faith can get you anywhere you want.”

Juanita has also found inspiration though other members of her family who have served. She has an aunt who is currently on active duty with the Air Force and an uncle who is medically retired from the Army with two tours in Afghanistan.

“A lot of kids, or just non-military, don’t realize how much is sacrificed by those in active duty,” said Juanita. “It makes me appreciate our country more and those who fight for our freedom.”

Throughout April the armed forces celebrates Month of the Military Child. This month-long celebration is an opportunity to recognize military children for surviving and thriving under challenging circumstances and to thank them for their service.

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