YHS student leaders graduate program

29-member Leaders of Tomorrow class earns certificates, praise

Members of the 2021-22 Yukon High School Leaders of Tomorrow display their graduation certificates during the Feb. 10th Yukon Chamber of Commerce luncheon. In front are, from left, YHS Leaders of Tomorrow advisor Darryl Andrews and co-founders Ernie Gomez and David Goodwin. This was the program’s 23rd year and it featured both freshmen and sophomores. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Yukon High School students took center stage at a business luncheon this week to share how they benefitted from a leadership training program.

Members of the 22nd and 23rd YHS Leaders of Tomorrow classes accepted graduation certificates at a ceremony during the Feb. 10th Yukon Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon.

Special guest was Ernie Gomez, who helped bring this student leadership development program to Yukon in 1999.

“The youth are not 100% of our population, but they’re 100% of our future,” Gomez told the audience gathered inside Events at 10 West Main.

Gomez, co-founder David Goodwin and advisor Darryl Andrews presented certificates (and praise) to this year’s Leaders of Tomorrow graduates.

Sponsored by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Leaders of Tomorrow is an annual fall program for YHS freshmen who are potential leaders, proven leaders and non-traditional leaders.

The 2021-22 Yukon Leaders of Tomorrow was a 29-member “hybrid” class comprised of freshmen and sophomores.

That’s because the program had to be canceled for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19.

The new YHS Leaders of Tomorrow graduates are:

Freshmen: Ethan Achipa, Britten Bengs, Italy Blankenship, Carlie Clowdus, Finnigan Cring, Alma DeLeora, Kacey Gilpin, Riley Nelson, Grace Phillip, Bhoomika Mistry, Ava Vandersee, Niya Varghese, and Meleah Wilson.

Sophomores: Kiera Blumhof, Bryce Bogle, Keaton Cox, Davis Crabtree, Marlee Fort, Phoenix Garner, Victoria Gruzewski, Charleigh Ingram, Hadley Odom, Alexa Palomino, Gillian Pickering, Alix Regier, Ashlynn Sanderson, Ava Stanley, Riley Swafford, and Ryan Thomas.

Seventeen of these YHS students attend Thursday’s graduation luncheon, taking turns discussing how the program helped them develop leadership and team-building skills.

“I’m really happy to be a part of Leaders of Tomorrow because it really made me step out of my ‘comfort zone’ and meet amazing new people,” freshman Meleah Wilson said.

Students completed these sessions over three months in fall 2021:

  • Ropes challenge course at the University of Central Oklahoma and Lake Arcadia
  • “Mock” city council meeting at the Centennial Building
  • Public speaker training at Yukon First United Methodist Church
  • Personality testing exercise at Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • Professional day with guest speakers at the Centennial Building
  • Business site tours of the Express Clydesdale Barn and Oklahoma City Will Rogers Airport.
  • Oklahoma State Student Council Convention
  • Freshmen leadership academy at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Yukon’s Leaders of Tomorrow hope to participate in a service project at the Ronald McDonald House this spring.

Leaders of Tomorrow is an extra-curricular activity, and most activities occur after regular school hours.

“They’ve had a full experience,” said Andrews, who has been the Leaders of Tomorrow advisor since the program’s inception.

Ernie Gomez, formerly of Southwestern Bell, talks about today’s youth during the Feb. 10th Yukon Leadership of Tomorrow graduation ceremony. Gomez founded the program with Yukon banker David Goodwin (left) in the late 1990s. At right is longtime YHS Leadership/Student Council advisor Darryl Andrews. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Gomez and Goodwin were instrumental in starting this YHS freshmen leadership program in the late 1990s. Gomez is retired from Southwestern Bell. Goodwin, then of YNB Bank, is now with RCB Bank.

The two men met with Yukon Public Schools’ administrators, who suggested that Andrews lead a new program called Leaders of Tomorrow.

Andrews thanked Gomez and Goodwin for their “vision and insight” – and hope for Yukon’s youth.

A Yukon teacher since 1985, “Mr. A” has been YHS Leadership Class and Student Council advisor for several decades.

“Several of you have been supporters every year,” Andrews told the audience at the Feb. 10th Yukon Chamber luncheon.

Yukon’s Rachel (Smith) Goble and Avery (Johnson) Moore and among alumni of the YHS Leadership of Tomorrow program.

“We have students who’ve gone through who are leaders in their community, in their businesses and in society today,” Andrews said. “This program gives them an opportunity (to be leaders).”

Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby thanked YHS Leaders of Tomorrow graduates for their spirit – and for their interest when they attended a city council meeting last fall.

“I love seeing that you are willing to take on leadership (roles), and to know that you are going to be our leaders of tomorrow,” Selby said. “You are going to make a difference.

“In just a few short years, I want to see some of you running for some of these governmental positions. … Listening to you today, we’re going to be in good hands.”

Yukon’s Leaders of Tomorrow program is sponsored and driven by community and business leaders who “see the value in these young people and the opportunities they want them to have,” Andrews noted.

Sponsors were the City of Yukon (Yukon City Council and Yukon Police Department/John Brown), Yukon Public Schools, Jason Simeroth, Pat and Anita Bishop, Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Pam Shelton, Genie Vinson, Kay Casper, YNB, Yukon First United Methodist Church, Fairfield Inn, RCB Bank/David Goodwin, Storme Jones/News 9, and UCO.

Seventeen members of the 2021-22 “hybrid” Yukon Leaders of Tomorrow class take turns sharing how the program helped them during a Feb. 10th graduate ceremony inside Events at 10 West Main. Some 29 students, 16 freshmen and 13 sophomores, earned certificates after completing the training. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)