CAMP LEJEUNE — Big hearted 16-year-old Nikolas Cooper is devoted to helping his community and has been recognized for his efforts this year in being selected Military Child of the Year® for the Marine Corps.
The Military Child of the Year award each year recognizes six outstanding young people ages 13 to 18. There are six winners selected, one to represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
The six finalists are chosen from 35 semi-finalists selected by a panel of judges. The judges are chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership and Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology and management consulting firm.
Criteria for the award includes a dedication to scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular activities and how they balance the challenges of military family life.
Cooper is a junior at Lejeune High School in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. According to a bio provided by Operation Homefront, he is the son Mary and David Cooper, a Marine Corps first sergeant. He has three younger sisters of whom he looked after through his father’s deployments.
For fun, Cooper enjoys his two Siberian huskies, running with friends and running in the annual Marine Corps Half Marathon.
Over the last year, Cooper has spent over 300 hours doing mentoring and tutoring, as well as working on community projects. One project Cooper organized was community debris cleanup around base housing, dedicating roughly 100 hours to getting clearance and volunteers for the cleanup project.
Academically Cooper is involved with the National Honor Society and tutoring peers in Spanish and mathematics. Those activities have earned Cooper recognition for both achievement in advanced placement courses and for leadership in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in which he serves as a cadet staff sergeant.
In addition to JRTOC, he is also president of his class and is involved with the Lejeune community’s Rotary Club.
Athletics is another area in which Cooper excels. He participated in varsity track and cross-country teams until a heart condition diagnosis cut those activities short. Undeterred, Cooper then became the track team manager until doctors cleared him to run again. Once back on the track and in shape, he helped his team place first in the region and seventh in the state.
Other activities Nikolas Cooper participates in include Semper Fi Fund Kids Camp, Student Government Association, St Francis Xavier Church and Harriott B. Smith Library.
A seventh award given out is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation. This award is presented by Booz Allen Hamilton and is given to a military child who has designed “a bold and creative solution” to a local, regional or global challenge.
The awards ceremony was set for April 2 in Arlington, Virginia, but has been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Prizes for the winners include various gifts from donors, $10,000 and a laptop.