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For student, Young Marines was calling

Even as a finalist for the state's Young Marine of the Year award, Aimee Speciale doesn't bask in her talent.

By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2002


SPRING HILL -- When she was 10, Aimee Speciale was one of the youngest members ever to join the Young Marines of Hernando.

But even at that age, she knew it was a calling, one that would greatly benefit her life in the future.

As it turns out, Aimee was right. Now 16 and a junior at Central High School, she has enjoyed many successes in life, most of which she says are a direct result of the character she has gained from her six years with the youth leadership organization.

Diligence and hard work have earned her high honors status for the past two years at Central. Respectfulness and a sense of commitment to her community has brought her accolades for her volunteer work at organizations throughout the county.

For those reasons and others, it's little wonder that the Spring Hill teen is among the finalists for the state's Young Marine of the Year award. Yet despite having been named her regional division's top unit leader, the nomination for the statewide honor was "totally unexpected," she said. "I just never considered it."

But as far as her commanding officer is concerned, Aimee has more than earned the honor.

"She has won the respect and loyalty of her subordinates," Young Marines of Hernando commanding officer James Hubbard wrote in his nomination recommendation to the organization's board.

Indeed, that has long been the goal of Aimee since she joined the ranks six years ago. While she admits she wasn't a gung-ho recruit at first, it didn't take long for her to realize that she had leadership potential.

"I've always been pretty good at motivating people," says Aimee, who was appointed First Sergeant of the 25-member Hernando unit last year. Since then, she has helped organize many of the public activities the squad participates in such as Veterans Day ceremonies, parades and flag dedications.

While her community service activities with the Young Marines may seem duty-bound, it's worth noting that Aimee's volunteer contributions frequently occur outside the organization. It's not unusual to find the teen helping out on weekends at the SPCA shelter or visiting residents in a nursing facility.

And while such activities have certainly earned her praise from adults and peers, alike, Aimee insists that isn't the motivation behind her work.

"One of the things I've learned in Young Marines is that you can make a difference in people's lives," she says. "You make a difference because it's in your heart."

FOR THE BOX:

Aimee Speciale, 16 , lives in Spring Hill

Parents: Ed and Bonnie Speciale

Favorite subject: science

Hobbies: swimming, outdoor activities

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