Three youths, whose fathers work at Pax River, have been nominated for honors — two are Navy semi-finalists for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year, and another is in the running for the Boys & Girls Club of America’s Military Youth of the Year.
Operation Homefront presents the Military Child of the Year Award to outstanding military children who demonstrate resiliency, leadership and achievement; and both GiVahna Penserga and Sierra Jordan accurately fit that description.
Daughter of Lt. Cmdr. Gilberto Penserga, a contract specialist with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), GiVahna Penserga is a 16-year old junior at Leonardtown High School; a member of the National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars; and an award-winning volleyball player who was elected to the All-Conference volleyball team by the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
“GiVahna is an amazing 16 year old,” said her mother, Heidi. “The responsibility that she continues to demonstrate inside and outside the home makes me a very fortunate, blessed and proud parent.”
A member of a Tahitian dance troupe, GiVahna enjoyed introducing the cultural dance to young children at the Rassieur Youth Center, where she often volunteers.
“I think of academics, sports and volunteering as providing life balance for me,” she said. “When living a military lifestyle, it’s important to keep busy and keep a positive mindset.”
Sierra Jordan, also a Navy finalist in last year’s Military Child of the Year, hasn’t slowed down at all.
Daughter of Navy Counselor 1st Class Joshua Jordan with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1, Sierra is an 11-year-old honor student at Esperanza Middle School; team leader in Robotics; collects baby items benefitting Operation Homefront; and also runs her own organization — Operation Cupcake — raising $527 this past year to benefit the mid-Atlantic chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Sierra has experienced 20 months of deployments and moved around to ten different schools,” said her mother, Nicole. “As stressful as it is for her to adapt, she always handles herself well and impresses everyone with her kind heart and strength.”
What’s Sierra’s advice to kids who find themselves moving as often as she has?
“I suggest that if you have a passion for something — in arts or even writing — then express your struggles through that,” she said.
Military Youth of the Year recognizes a Boys & Girls Club member serving on a military installation who has overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments.
Sabrina Barnes, educational lead tech at the Rassieur Youth Center, believed that description summed up 16-year-old Julius Rosales - who not long ago lived in a merged household with five children under the age of six years — so she nominated him for the honor.
“Julius picked up the responsibility of helping his family through caring for [the children], watching them during the days and after school, and also cooking meals when needed,” Barnes said.
The son of Javier Rosales, retired E-6 Sailor now working in core avionics with NAVAIR, Julius is enrolled in several honors and AP classes and is a member of the marching band at Great Mills High School. He completed 107 volunteer hours in 2013 at the local hospital, soup kitchen and his church, among other places.
Bullied as a young child, Julius is a member of the youth center’s Teen Council and his high school’s Student 2 Student, two activities designed to help new youths in the area feel welcome and familiar.
“New kids and teens are leaving their old lives to come [here] and they should feel comfortable and relaxed,” he said. “I do my best to make the world a better place and make every person I come across smile.”
For others who may find themselves being bullied, Julius advises they stick up for themselves.
“Tell someone; do not be afraid of the bully,” he said. “And if you see someone else being bullied, tell a nearby adult or teacher so they can resolve the situation. We all deserve to smile.”
It appears that Pax River’s next generation is poised to carry on what their fathers are currently contributing toward — the installation’s legacy of excellence and community partnership. Good luck to all three of these deserving young students.