McConnell youth wins Southwest 2024 Military Youth of the Year

  • Published
  • By Airman Paula Arce
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing

Sunday McGowan, a member of McConnell’s Keystone Club program, was named Southwest Military Youth of the Year during a ceremony in Dallas, Texas, on April 6, 2024.

The Keystone Club is a program within the Boys and Girls Club of America that provides teens the opportunity to develop leadership skills, ensure academic success and more.

Sunday was eight years old when her family relocated to Derby, where she became a member of the McConnell youth center. At the age of 14, she joined the Keystone Club program. Now, four years later, she will represent McConnell at the National Military Youth of the Year competition in Washington D.C. on Aug. 8, 2024.

“I feel really honored and super happy about it,” Sunday said. “I think that this is a great way to encourage other kids, seeing that a kid from McConnell could actually win.”

Her mother, Sgt. 1st Class LaParis McGowan, serves in the U.S. Army Reserve’s 647th Regional Support Group and is also a Department of Defense civilian who works as the health readiness coordinator for the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Wichita.

Sunday looks up to the confidence the Army has instilled into her mother whose ability to walk into a room and strike a conversation with anyone was a trait that Sunday knew she wanted to learn. Being part of a military family pushed her to step out of her comfort zone, where she’s seen her personality and character development unfold and skyrocket. Sunday’s achievements thus far are greatly attributed to the confidence now instilled in her and are helping her push for bigger and better for the future.

Sunday plans to implement a failure simulation for children attending the youth center, which involves putting a fake egg on a spoon for a child to hold. The child walks with the egg on the spoon, and right before they get to the destination, a third party walks up and knocks the egg over.

“It teaches them that an obstacle can come in front of them and stop them,” Sunday said. “Whether it be a person, a boss or family member, something can happen, and it’s obviously going to throw you off course from your original goal.”

To put their egg back together, the children have to give themselves words of affirmation, mentioning things they’re strong at and things they can work on.

“Just because it’s a flaw doesn’t mean it can’t also be a strength for you later,” Sunday said.

Sunday is working to start the project with her advisor at the youth center.

“I wish I would have prepared myself more for failure because I think a lot of times we try to prepare ourselves for success and miss the fact that before success comes failure,” Sunday said.

For information about the Youth Center, call (316) 759-4070.