Earlier this week, William Brooks Van Buren (Brooks) agreed to interview with us. Brooks was last year's winner of the 2015 Youth Leadership Award. Since winning the award, he has enrolled in Purdue University and is currently in the midst of finals. Brooks talks about how the award has changed his perspective on his life and accomplishments!
NCCEP: How did it feel to be nominated for the Youth of the Year Award?
Brooks: I never saw much significance in my actions, so receiving such recognition was unprecedented.
NCCEP: Has receiving the award changed your perspective on your GEAR UP experience and your accomplishments? If so, how?
Brooks: Receiving the award led me to view my past accomplishments in a higher light, and gave me more confidence in myself. I always felt like I was just trudging along through my life well enough to get to college, and it didn't really matter if anyone else knew my background, but then the award made me realize it was a pretty significant accomplishment. It gave me more confidence that I was heading down the right path, and that I'm capable of continuing to succeed in life.
NCCEP: What would you like nominators to know about the benefits of the Leadership Award?
Brooks: The award has given me a great advantage in that it really bolsters my resume and my background. I am especially thankful for this because I never had the opportunity to participate in much during high school, so the award fills that gap nicely. Receiving the award gives me something to show for my unfortunate past. I've missed a few years of elementary schooling, been homeless for a large part of my life, living out of a car, and frequently moved and switched schools throughout the rest of my childhood. If I try to explain why I've accomplished something great by giving someone that summary, likely they will either underestimate the gravity of the situation or not entirely believe me. If anything, the national award gives me credibility, and an alternative way to say "I've accomplished something great."