By Conrad Dudderar
Twenty-two Yukon High School freshmen are finishing up a fall training that’s prepared more than 500 students since the late ‘90s to be the “next generation” of leaders.
The 24th Yukon Leaders of Tomorrow class started meeting Sept. 27 and is winding down their busy three-month itinerary.
The program has featured personality testing and public speaking exercises, a “professional day” with business site tours, ropes challenge course, mock city council meeting, and leadership conferences.
All that’s left is an upcoming service project and next spring’s graduation ceremony.
The 2022-23 Leaders of Tomorrow is comprised of a “diverse group” of students, advisor Darryl Andrews said.
Sponsored by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the program helps develop potential leaders, proven leaders and non-traditional leaders.
“This year’s class is a good mix of those three ‘target’ areas as set forth in the program’s mission statement,” Andrews noted. “I really like seeing the kids grow and how they really get excited about the activities that they do.”
The YHS freshman members are:
Alexandria Aliff, Lexi Andis, Abby Ankrom, Maylee Chapman, Leila Conn, Christina Dang, Emma Dunaway, Caitlyn Flannery, Zander Gilsdorf, Kyla Guest, Isabelle Harris, Ava Honn, Jaselee Hux, Johnathon Joseph, Lilly Lamb, Ellie Lebsack, Lauren Loeffelholz, Ethan Thomas, Reeve Torres, Katelynn Weaver, Joshua Yeboah, and Abigail Zachariah.
“Leaders of Tomorrow will always be a part of my memory,” Leila Conn said. “I’ve gotten to participate in so many new experiences that most people don’t have the chance to do.
“I’m so honored that Leaders of Tomorrow has given me those opportunities.”
Leila got to serve as Yukon’s mayor and preside at the mock council meeting inside the Centennial Building.
She especially enjoyed visiting the News 9 studio to meet anchor Storme Jones, a YHS graduate; and attending the University of Central Oklahoma Leadership Academy.
“UCOLA definitely was my favorite part,” Leila added. “Coming from Yukon and being in Leaders of Tomorrow, I got the chance to stand up and be a leader.
“There were so many leaders in the room, and we could learn about different experiences and ideas from other schools to bring back to our school.”
YHS Leaders of Tomorrow has inspired, encouraged and strengthened young leaders for 24 years. The program’s benchmark activities have remained constant since its inception.
“It’s just a good way to get ‘plugged in’, come out of your comfort zone and meet new friends,” Leila said. “This is something I definitely will always remember coming out of high school.”
A member of the YHS Student Council, Leadership Class and Partners Club, Leila will encourage Yukon students in lower grades to participate in Leaders of Tomorrow.
Host sites for the 2022-23 YHS Leaders of Tomorrow’s fall activities have been:
Fairfield Inn & Suites, Lake Arcadia Boathouse, University of Central Oklahoma, Yukon City Hall, YNB Bank, News 9, Will Rogers World Airport, Grace Episcopal Church, and the Centennial Building Council Chambers.
Some members also attended the Oklahoma State Student Council Convention in Cache and a district Student Council meeting in Dibble.
Yukon’s Leaders of Tomorrow program expands the students’ understanding of leadership, responsibility, teamwork, and community involvement.
Each class consists of YHS freshmen who meet and interact with business and civic leaders, perform a service project and engage in teambuilding and personal-growth activities.
Participants commonly pursue leadership roles in later school years and various civic activities long after the semester’s program has run its course.
Program costs are paid through donations to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce by local businesses, individuals and civic groups.
Yukon banker David Goodwin and Ernie Gomez were instrumental in bringing Leaders of Tomorrow to Yukon in 1998. Gomez, then the community relations representative for Southwestern Bell in Canadian County, originally proposed the program.
Goodwin and Gomez met with then-Yukon Public Schools’ Superintendent Terry Dean, who suggested Andrews lead the freshman leadership program.
“Mr. A.”, who starting teaching at YPS in 1985, is a longtime Student Council and Leadership Class advisor.
“Leaders of Tomorrow is a program that this community has continually supported,” Andrews said. “That’s why it has sustained for so long. I’ve never had to worry about whether we’d have the money in place or the facilities.
“This is what makes my teaching worthwhile – being able to do extracurricular activities like Leadership of Tomorrow, Student Council and Special Olympics.”
Goodwin remains a major supporter and self-described “cheerleader” of the YHS Leaders of Tomorrow. He helps recruit program sponsors and venues to host activities.
Goodwin explained the two-fold intent of Leaders of Tomorrow.
“First to introduce freshmen to leadership roles, opportunities and responsibilities in and outside of school and, secondly, to recognize and incorporate a variety of leadership styles,” he said.
“Mr. Gomez emphasized the program’s intent to include not only the leaders already engaged in every school activity and holding every student body office, but to also seek out and include others with leadership potential that might not be as openly recognized on a daily basis.”
The 22-member YHS Leaders of Tomorrow class will receive diplomas during the Yukon Chamber’s February membership luncheon.