Yesterday as a member, I attended the Optimist Club luncheon. The program was a recognition of Youth Leaders for Neighborhood Excellence. In our town, the City Parks and Recreation Department staffs six different Neighborhood Centers where students can go after school. We are also fortunate to have two non-profit centers that provide similar services: the Boys and Girls Club and the Jubilee Family Center. The centers offer well-supervised and staffed preschool, senior, summer, and school age programs.
The students who were recognized were nominated by the staff from each center. The youth demonstrate a strong degree of volunteerism and achievement at the various community centers and are recognized for their family responsibilities, moral character, school/community activities, services provided, life goals, and/or obstacles overcome. As I listened to the letters of nomination and watched the recipients who stood proudly before their parents and community leaders, I was struck by the kinds of leadership they had shown in their lives: raising younger siblings, being responsible for their entire family’s laundry, involuntarily inspiring all around them, seeking the welfare of others over themselves, influencing others for good.
Then I thought about my own school. We seek to create leaders. We give our students opportunities to open car doors, help with recycling, be older buddies to younger classmates, to serve on the eighth-grade Leadership Council. We want our students to demonstrate the same qualities of consistency, respect, and caring that students from the neighborhood centers demonstrate. I believe that adults hope all children will develop these qualities and be recognized for them, and I am so proud to see children from all neighborhoods showing the world the kind of leadership that will bring our world peace and life satisfaction.