Challenges Shape Youth of Year

By: Staff

In February, Milayo was named Youth of the Year at the annual Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County breakfast. The 16-year-old Wellington resident was chosen out of hundreds of youth for the honor. She shares her inspiring journey with NOCO Style readers.

Q. How old are you? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What are your hobbies/interests?

A. I just turned 16 in mid-February. I have two siblings, a younger brother and a younger sister. I enjoy writing stories, drawing and hanging out with my friends. I’m interested in biology, chemistry and math in school; they’re a lot of fun to learn about!

Q. It’s Saturday afternoon—where will we find you?

A. It depends on the Saturday. I might be hanging out with my friends or my family. I might be trying to finish some homework. Or I’ll be on my own: drawing, writing, reading or playing video games.

Q. Tell us your story.

A. I was diagnosed [with Leukemia] at age 7 and learned about a heart defect that I had [at the same time]. My treatment for the cancer lasted for two years, and I finished in November 2013. Right before I was diagnosed, I moved to a new school, so I was taken out of school pretty quickly because of the treatment. It affected my interests quite a bit, because before I was super into sports, and after I had no interest in them.

Being home made it a bit hard for me to make friends, but after the first year, I was able to go back and make friends. My heart treatment involved an open-heart surgery, which they did soon after I finished my cancer treatment. It didn’t affect me too much, just the programs I was participating in at the Boys & Girls Club, since it was during the summer. When I was diagnosed and throughout my treatment, I remember not knowing what was going on. I didn’t understand the full extent of the problem. It kept me from getting overwhelmed, but I do remember a few times wondering if the treatment was going to work, or if it was doing anything.

Q. You came out of this experience with the drive to become a children’s cardiologist. What awoke that desire in you?

A. After I finished my treatment and my heart surgery, I remember wanting to do the same thing for other kids that the doctors did for me. I couldn’t decide on being an oncologist or a cardiologist. As time went on, however, I realized that cardiology affected me more, because of my family history. It affects me, my dad and my grandparents. I know that because of all of those experiences, I can connect with the kids who are in similar situations as mine.

Q. How is life right now? What do you look forward to the most in 2020?

A. Life is pretty good right now. I’m finishing up my sophomore year of high school and working at Boys & Girls Club. I’m excited for the summer, because I’m going to Washington, D.C., and because I’ll have my driver’s license. I’m also excited for this fall, because I’m going back to California for my aunt’s wedding.

Q. If you could tackle one world problem right now, what would it be?

A. I think I would want to tackle the problem of greed. Many of the world’s problems, such as starvation, poverty or lack of water in some places, could be solved if people as a species weren’t so filled with greed. We’d be more inclined to help others; even something as simple as noticing a neighbor’s need and helping could solve a lot of problems. And, as I said at the breakfast, I want people to compassionately listen to one another and take action. I think that’s another step to overcoming the problem of greed.

Q. How has the Youth of the Year award impacted you? (Congrats, by the way.)

A. It’s impacted me quite a bit. It’s given me more opportunities to share my story and inspire others who are in similar situations. I find that to be really cool, because that’s what I want to do with my life. I’ve also gotten to meet a lot of new and important people, who can help me to create a better world. This experience has taught me the power of one voice, and what it can bring to others.