Kaiserslautern teen wins Army Youth of the Year Award

by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

The daughter of a U.S. Army officer at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was selected as the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year for as Installation Management Command’s European region.

Natalie Ruiz-Castillo, 16, a junior at Ramstein High School, earned a spot in the regional competition after being named Youth of the Year for U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.

The award is the highest honor a Boys & Girls Club member can receive. She’s been a club member for 11 years.

“I’m so grateful that I have accomplished so much at a young age,” Natalie said. “That is what I am proud of.”

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Natalie lived in Arizona, North Carolina, Mississippi, Japan, Arkansas and Texas before moving to Germany in late 2009. Taking part in activities has helped her adjust to new communities and offered a positive outlet for her talents, she said.

The Landstuhl youth center offers a safe place where Natalie can meet with her friends and not have pressures, she said.

“It’s where I can surround myself with positive people in a positive atmosphere,” Natalie said.

Since 1947, the award program has recognized teens for outstanding service to the club, their local communities and their families.

The judging criteria also include strong academics, morals, goals and public speaking abilities. Last year, Natalie accumulated more than 600 hours
volunteering. Each quarter, she’s made the academic honor roll. She is secretary of the Thespian Honor Society and a member of both the National and Spanish Honor Societies and is also secretary and treasurer of the Ramstein Keystone Club.
Her selection comes amid a monthlong focus on military children.

For the past 25 years, the U.S. Department of Defense honors the children of its service members in April — the Month of the Military Child. Americans make time to recognize the nation’s 1.8 million military children, many who have
seen parents deploy more than once in the past decade.

Natalie has now been invited by IMCOM-E to attend a June youth leadership forum near Bitburg, Germany. There, she will compete with winners from other service branches in the European region, said Ricky Ruiz, director of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s youth programs

“The award is one of the highest that a club member can achieve,” he said. “(We) are extremely proud of Natalie.” 

Regional winners can receive a $10,000 scholarship and compete nationally. National winners may earn up to $50,000 for school. Natalie aspires to attend university in Puerto Rico and study architecture.

Army Maj. Orlando Ruiz-Sosa, who works in public health at Landstuhl, said the pride he feels for his daughter is hard to describe in words.

“She’s a leader and she has charisma,” Major Ruiz-Sosa said. “She’s always been interested in helping people and involved in the community. We are very proud of her accomplishment.”