A 17-year-old high school junior from Colorado Springs has been named National Young Marine of the Year.
Angel Luiz Orozco, a junior at Sierra High School in Harrison School District 2, was selected May 6 as this year's recipient, at an adult leaders' conference in Las Vegas.
It's a goal he's been working toward since joining the national youth education and service organization at age 8.
"It was the culmination of most of my life, and in that moment, all I could do was release a strangled breath," he said after the announcement.
Orozco, a member of Pikes Peak Young Marines, was one of six division finalists from across the nation to compete for the top title.
The honor is "a huge accomplishment," Ret. Marine Corps Col. William P. Davis, national executive director and CEO of the Young Marines, said in a news release.
"He has proven himself a dedicated leader," he said.
Orozco credits the program for helping develop his morals and work ethic, and inspiring him to be the best he can be.
"We win when we come together and cooperate," he said in the news release announcing his award. "If we value each other's differences and imagine each other's complexities, this world would be a much better place. We must approach things with understanding and compassion in attempt to create friends, not enemies."
Orozco will serve as a mentor to the 9,200 youth who belong to the nonprofit youth education service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through high school.
As the recipient, Orozco will spend much of the next year traveling to events, including the Navajo Code Talkers Day, the Pearl Harbor anniversary observance, and a return trip to Guam and Iwo Jima.
In March, he and other Young Marines division winners escorted American and Japanese World War II veterans on a remembrance trip to the islands of Guam and Iwo Jima.
"I'm willing to work hard, and this is my passion," he told The Gazette in March. "Others are able to see this is something I give myself to, 110 percent."
Among Orozco's goals during his term are to increase the Young Marines' presence on social media, step up community involvement and create videos for member training and development.
Orozco also has been involved in football, baseball and wrestling. He volunteered at a local community center for five years was named a public health champion by El Paso County Public Health for speaking out against predatory advertising by tobacco companies.