WARSAW — Developing vision and courage were the main topics of the Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy banquet and graduation, held Wednesday evening, May 2.
KYLA president Carl Lauster opened the event, stating that this is the program’s 25th graduating class. Since its inception in 1993, KYLA has graduated 640 students.
While participating in KYLA, students develop a community service project called Project Proud in order to better the community. Two groups presented their work to the banquet attendees.
Sarah Hewitt and Kaitlin Frank, Whitko High School; and Rachel Boyle and Miriam Hagg, Warsaw Community High School, presented their project “The Giving Basket.”
The Giving Basket focuses on helping women, men and children in the community who are dealing with domestic abuse. The four students worked with The Beaman Home in Warsaw to create baskets containing blankets, basic necessities and add-ons for children, such as crayons and books.
With help from Miller’s Merry Manor, the students made blankets for the baskets. They also held a bake sale at Whitko High School to raise money for purchasing necessities for the baskets.
Hagg stated that The Giving Basket focuses on education and health, and that doing this project was an eye-opening experience.
“When I get up in the morning and brush my teeth, I don’t really have to think about where that toothbrush is coming from,” said Hagg. “I just have it. Residents in The Beaman Home have been in situations where even a toothbrush isn’t something they can take for granted.”
Hannah Jansma and Sarah Tucker, Tippecanoe Valley High School; and Valerie Messmore, Warsaw Community High School, presented their project on a 4-H awareness drive.
The drive focused on spreading awareness in area middle schools about the 4-H program. The three students visited five middle schools, talking to more than 1,000 students about the program.
To promote 4-H even further, they planned an open house for students to attend and learn more about the various programs in 4-H. They created flyers and a radio ad to spread awareness about the open house. Sixty-eight students attended the event, and 48 enrolled in the program during the open house.
Messmore stated that doing this project helped her better realize the scope of a club’s impact on a community.
“4-H is positively impacting these students and it’s making sure they have a family in the 4-H club that supports them,” Messmore said.
Keynote speaker Gib Young, a professional Theodore Roosevelt interpreter, ended the presentations for the evening with a motivational speech about having courage to develop oneself to become a strong leader.
“Leaders are always needed,” Young said. “People who are willing to step up are always needed. Leaders are always needed in every facet of a community’s life.”
During the presentation, Young asked Sasha West, Triton Junior-Senior High School, to come up front. At the beginning of the event, KYLA board members stated that West had started the program as a shy introvert, but grew into an extrovert while in KYLA.
West’s project focused on helping a young girl get a service dog.
“So if somebody asks you, ‘You run into all these obstacles, why don’t you stop and do something else?'” Young asked.
“Because I have a duty to help this little girl,” West said.
In the spirit of Roosevelt, Young presented West with a stuffed teddy bear.
Young ended his speech with telling KYLA graduates to have vision and courage.
“As a leader, have a vision of where you want to go,” Young said. “See the road ahead. It may not seem very clear to you right now, but see that goal out there and be ready for things like detours or obstacles. The second thing is having courage. Don’t be afraid to let others know what you see.”
At the end of the event, each graduate was presented with a diploma. The new at large student board members for KYLA were also announced. Anthony Bass and Valerie Messmore, Warsaw Community High School, will take over the board positions and help organize events with KYLA board members.