By Conrad Dudderar
A special group of student leaders earned hearty applause from Yukon business and community leaders at a recent annual graduation ceremony.
Members of the 2022-23 Yukon Leaders of Tomorrow were celebrated for their accomplishments at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s Feb. 9th membership luncheon at Mazzio’s Pizza, 1097 S Cornwell.
Sponsored by the Yukon Chamber, the Leaders of Tomorrow program helps develop potential leaders, proven leaders and non-traditional leaders.
These 22 YHS freshmen comprised the 24th Leaders of Tomorrow class:
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.
Students took turns during the Feb. 9th luncheon discussing the activities they completed last fall while revealing how much this unique leadership program has positively influenced them.
Kyla Guest shared about what she learned from a special guest presenter, Yukon Deputy Police Chief John Brown.
“He talked to us about being mature, and being responsible,” Kyla told the luncheon audience. “He is brave to serve our city and keep us safe, and also to inspire us to be better and be good.”
Lauren Loeffelholz related her experience during a team-building exercise as part of the fall training.
“We had to climb a 50-foot tower on a zip line,” Lauren shared. “I’m afraid of heights, so my peers really helped cheer me on. It was amazing how that helped me climb to the top and go down the zip line.”
February’s Yukon Chamber luncheon concluded with the 24th YHS Leaders of Tomorrow class receiving graduation certificates from Leaders of Tomorrow advisor Darryl Andrews, longtime Yukon banker David Goodwin and Yukon Chamber Vice President Missy King.
“As someone who’s been in education for 38 years and lived in Yukon since the fourth grade in 1974, my thanks to you for your support and love for the young people,” Andrews told chamber members.
A YHS graduate, “Mr. A.” started teaching for Yukon Public Schools in 1985. He is a longtime YHS Student Council and Leadership Class advisor.
Goodwin, the Yukon Chamber’s liaison to the YHS Leaders of Tomorrow, said Andrews has taken this program and been “running with it ever since” it began 24 years ago.
“There have been hundreds of young people go through the program,” said Goodwin, who helped launch Leaders of Tomorrow in 1998-99 while serving as Yukon Chamber president.
“Many of them are now chamber members, leading their businesses across the city. We’re very lucky to have Darryl in our school system. I’m not a liaison. I’m a cheerleader – for Darryl, and this program.”
NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS
Since the late ‘90s, Yukon’s annual Leaders of Tomorrow program has prepared more than 500 students to be the “next generation” of leaders.
The unique class features personality testing and public speaking exercises, a “professional day” with business site tours, ropes challenge course, mock city council meeting, leadership conferences, and a community service project.
Leaders of Tomorrow was first proposed by Ernie Gomez, then the community relations representative for Southwestern Bell in Canadian County.
Goodwin and Gomez approached Yukon Public Schools’ officials, who suggested Andrews coordinate the new freshman leadership class.
Yukon’s Leaders of Tomorrow program – which will mark a quarter century in the 2023-24 school year – 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.
“Thank you for your continued support and always being there for the kids,” Andrews told the crowd at the Feb. 9th Yukon Chamber luncheon. “This is a very valuable program, and I really appreciate it.”