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November 2011
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My Key Leader Experience

by Stephanie (Maryland)


Imagine seventy high schoolers gathered together to spend a weekend together. These high school students are complete strangers to each other. Now, fast forward to the end of the weekend, and all the students are extremely close, as if they have known each other for years. How can this be possible? With Key Leader, anything is possible.


I was always known as the "quiet girl" who would never volunteer in class, which was not what I wanted to be known as. I attended Key Leader in 2009 at Arlington Echo. Upon my arrival, I didn't know what to expect, let alone what Key Leader was truly about. My Kiwanis Club sponsored me to go and thought it would be a good learning experience. I can easily say that that weekend changed me…for life. I learned so much about myself and others that are life lessons that not everyone learns. During the ropes course, I was completely mortified about some of the activities, including climbing a ten-foot wall. By the end of the ropes course, I was ready for anything. Specifically, I picked up on two things: believing in yourself and knowing anything is possible. I also learned to be myself and to think if the person you are known as is who you really want to be. Did I want to be known as the quiet girl? No. I wanted to be known as the sweet girl who would do anything to make a difference.


After I attended Key Leader, I ran for president of my Key Club, and won! The year was extremely successful, mostly because of lessons learned from Key Leader. Throughout planning projects, I never forgot what our lead facilitator, Wendy Fraser, told us: "You don't need to be as big as Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa to make a difference." Following this, I organized several activities, including two school Walks for Diabetes, exceeding my goal both years by raising $7,000 combined.


As January 2011 rolled around, I decided to take a chance and run for Lieutenant Governor of Key Club Division 9. Without Key Leader, I wouldn't even dream about running. After elected, the experience has been life changing.


In April 2011, I attended Key Leader a second time as a student facilitator. I remember texting my mom right when I got there, telling her that "this will easily be the best weekend… ever." It definitely was! Jane Erickson, our lead facilitator, was breathtaking, explaining how we can leave handprints on anyone's life. Every attendee learned something new that weekend, and I can pretty much guarantee no one would trade that experience.


Because of all my leadership skills from Key Leader, I was accepted into Arcadia University, the #1 school in Study Abroad, and was offered a yearly scholarship of $15,500 for Distinguished Scholars. I definitely recommend the Key Leader experience to everyone… the stories and memories will last a lifetime!


There will be 3 Key Leader Weekends in 2012 -- May 27-29, at Arlington Echo, Millersville, Maryland; April 18-20, at Jamestown 4-H Educational Center, Williamsburg, Virginia; and November 9-11, at Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center, Front Royal, Virginia. For more information, please contact District Chair Nicole McDermott (Kiwanis Club of Tysons Corner/McLean, Virginia) at capitalkeyleader@gmail.com or 703.829.5481. For more information about Key Leader, please visit www.youtube.com/CapitalKeyLeader and watch live student testimonials about the quality of the program. The students featured on our YouTube Channel are all Capital District "kids." Also, search Capital District Key Leader on Facebook and like it or visit key-leader.org.

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