Dream big and pursue your passions, Lt. Governer Kim Reynolds told 67 area students at the National Council on Youth Leadership's 20th annual Youth Salute Sunday night.
The high school seniors were being honored as NCYL Youth Leaders. They were selected by their schools based on their grade-point average and involvement in leadership positions in school, church or community groups.
They are musicians, athletes, National Honor Society students and student council leaders -some of them all at the same time.
Lt. Governer Kim Reynolds shakes hands with the four NCYL Youth Leader finalists after the NCYL Youth Salute. They are, from left, Allison Bailey, Webster City High School; Sarah Rethwisch, Fort Dodge Senior High; Aaron Youngberg, Pocahontas Area High School; and Austin Sanford, FDSH.
After being nominated last year as juniors, the students had to write an essay and prepare a resume, said Pam Bunte, Youth Engagement Coordinator at Trinity Regional Medical Center, who leads the local NCYL chapter.
Four finalists were chosen out of the group, based on the essays and interviews with community members. They were Allison Bailey, Webster City High School; Sarah Rethwisch, Fort Dodge Senior High; Aaron Youngberg, Pocahontas Area High School; and Austin Sanford, FDSH.
Those four will attend the Town Meeting Of Tomorrow, held at Washington University in St. Louis in late October, a three-day event that brings Youth Leaders together from across the nation.
Sanford said he is looking forward to it.
"I'm excited to see who will speak there, and what they'll have us do," he said.
Sanford is the Vice President of his student body, and has been on the student council since his first year in high school.
Trying out for this contest, he said, "is a great way to learn to do interviews. I think writing the essay made me a better writer. It helps me be more professional."
Bailey said the interview process was actually her favorite part of NCYL.
"I was a little scared going in, but the people interviewing me were really nice," Bailey said. "And the questions were interesting, they weren't just generic. It was a good experience. I've had job interviews before, but it's good practice."
That's not surprising; Bunte said that many students say they are helped when they apply for colleges or interview for jobs because of their experience in NCYL.
Erin Anderson, of Webster City High School, said the group let her connect with other inspiring people.
"It's been a huge honor getting to meet people in the surrounding areas and really opening up my eyes to what leadership has to offer me," she said.
Caleb Wubben, of Manson Northwest Webster, said he's learned a lot of new ways to be a leader, and how to bring everybody along. He attended an NCYL seminar, where his favorite part was the activities.
"We had to figure out a maze of, you had to step on a box, and you could only take one step at a time, he'd let you know if you were on the right path," he said. "And then eventually you had to step outside the box for your next step, so you have to learn to think outside the box."
More than a dozen area schools are included in the North Central Iowa Chapter of NCYL, Bunte said. Eight schools were represented Sunday night.
Kathy Moe, director of volunteer services at TRMC, welcomed the students.
"We know you are going to be future leaders and groundbreakers," she said. "We can't wait to see what you will do with your futures."
TRMC Chief Executive Officer Sue Thompson then introduced Reynolds.
Reynolds said she heard of the program while on a trade mission to China with Bunte.
"I was so impressed with her passion and enthusiasm, and to see that enthusiasm only escalate when she started talking about the caliber of young people who participated in the program," she said.
"Find something you are absolutely passionate about, and go for it," she told the students. "Dream big, because you can't do it if you don't dream it. Don't be deterred; don't let a misstep or a failure stop you, because it happens to all of us.
"No matter where you find yourself along life's path, your position will be exactly the sum total of the decisions you have made along the way."
Reynolds told the story of Talia Leman, "a young girl from Waukee, Iowa, who at age ten believed that she could change the world one kid at a time."
Leman decided to do something about the destruction she saw on TV following Hurricane Katrina, Reynolds said. Leman began by collecting money instead of candy at Halloween. Then her school picked up the cause, then schools throughout the country.
"Because Talia believed in her cause and herself,... at age 12, she raised over 10 million dollars for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Talia organized the philanthropic efforts of more than 12 million children on four continents," Reynolds said.