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2010 Air National Guard Youth of the Year

  • Published
  • By Kathleen Flaherty
  • 145th Airlift Wing/Family Readiness
Dakota C. Johnson, of Gastonia, NC, was selected as the nation's Air National Guard 2010 Youth of the Year. The senior at Highland School of Technology, along with ten Air Force Youths of the Year Winners will be flown to Washington, DC, to attend a ceremony and Teen Forum at the Pentagon.

Dakota's parents, Air Force 2nd Lt. Eric Johnson and Capt. Stephanie Johnson are both members of the 145th Medical Group, North Carolina Air National Guard. Dakota also has an older brother, Staff Sgt. Chris Johnson, who is also a member of the North Carolina Air National Guard.

Dakota is consistently demonstrating both leadership and service at home, at school, and in the community. He is very active in sports, church, and community service, while juggling a very rigorous school schedule and still maintaining a class rank of one out of 139 students. Dakota volunteers through Union Road Church of God's Soup Kitchen and through the Salvation Army, where he prepares and serves meals to the homeless and needy of Gaston County. This summer, Dakota is embarking on his first mission trip, traveling  to Jamaica to work with churches of Montego Bay Area and at the Blossom Garden Orphanage. As a member of the Health Occupations Students of America organization for three years, he recently placed in the top 10 at the HOSA State competition for his work in creating a book about childhood diabetes and presenting it to preschoolers around Gaston County.

Since 2007, Dakota has served with NCANG's "Operation Santa Claus" in providing Christmas presents for underprivileged children in surrounding areas. Dakota has also served with Special Olympics through both his high school and the NCANG. He also served as a camp counselor and team member with Camp Sertoma, a five-week summer camp for mentally handicapped children and adults.

"[We are] always looking for ladies and gentlemen that have great personalities, are team players, have leadership qualities, are dependable and dedicated. I believe Dakota possesses all of these qualities," said JanetMcGee, Camp Sertoma's executive director.

Dakota's parents say they are extremely proud of him and all of his outstanding accomplishments. After high school, Dakota plans to follow in his parent's "bootsteps" by joining the NCANG and attending the University of North Carolina to become a physician.