Find your why and chase it.
That was the message from community leaders and graduates when LEAD Green held its inaugural summit last weekend.
The nonprofit, founded by Churchill County High School graduate Garrett Kalt, is dedicated to cultivating local high-school students through leadership, education, awareness and development (LEAD).
Friday’s community leader panel featured CCHS Vice Principal Brenda Boone, Pizza Barn owner Roger Diedrichsen, city councilwoman and CCHS social studies teacher Kelly Frost, county commissioner Bus Scharmann, Judge Thomas Stockard and Sheriff Ben Trotter. They spoke to about 40 youth.
When asked by a student in the audience for the panelists’ goals for the rising generation, Trotter responded: “Ignore what society expects of you and crush it.”
Boone talked about the importance of faith, family and community as well as staying positive and being confident. Frost added how she has learned little things go a long ways and “you can always learn from anybody you meet.”
Stockard advised to always reach out to potential mentors or for job-shadowing possibilities. Trotter agreed most professionals would be flattered and open to help young people.
“I know from personal experience, you’ll be a happier person serving other people,” Scharmann said of choosing paths in life.
“There’s more to life than just me,” he said of his realization as a young man.
Stockard also said to try to keep perspective. He added smiling when he was young, “100 years ago,” problems seemed much bigger than they usually really were. The judge also advised doing what you love as well as make choices with the long view in mind.
Diedrichsen shared about the importance family members can play in lifting you up.
“Just because you’re humble, doesn’t mean you’re weak,” Trotter said. “Something I have learned is even the quiet and reserved person can step up and be a leader in the community … There is no room in good leadership for ego.”
Frost recalled how President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read “The buck stops here.” She said a great leader will take responsibility rather than passing the buck.
The keynote speaker of the evening was CCHS graduate Shiva Rajagopal, now a computer engineer at Fitbit in San Francisco. Despite his glamorous employer, Rajagopal stated he still remembers all the words to the Greenwave fight song.
The engineer attended Cornell University for his bachelor’s and master’s in electrical and computer engineering. He became involved with a variety of groups in college including a satellite team who launched a satellite in September 2013, and a group who taught basic coding to elementary school students.
The former Greenwave spent his summers in various ways including three summers at the National Youth Science Camp, one interning at Microsoft and another interning at Tesla in Palo Alto, Calif.
Eight other CCHS alums were selected to “share their why”— the conference theme was “Discovering Your Why” — and gave advice to attending students during the student panel on Saturday.
Featured alumni included the following guest speakers:
Lane Dillion (‘14), a senior studying civil engineering at Syracuse University; serves as president of the lacrosse club, vice president of physics club and is an active member of the ski club.
Thaaron Kalt (‘12), recently earned his master’s in accounting from the University of Nevada, Reno, and now interns at Grant Thornton, the world’s fifth largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting member firms.
Zack Keener (‘14), studies business at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C.; recently graduated from Officer Candidates School and commissions into the Marine Corps in May; also serves as president of the Semper Fi Society and has been involved in training, shaping and mentoring hundreds of cadets on campus.
Cameron Kissick (‘15), a student-athlete at Whitworth University for two years and transferring to UNR this fall; served on the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is dedicated to improving the physical, mental and emotional health of others.
Raquel Peper (‘14), a professional photographer in Northern Nevada; recently launched Raquel’s Reflections, her own photography business specializing in engagements, weddings and senior portraits.
Margaret Rueda (‘14), accounts manager for Walker Lake Disposal for the last year and a half; after high school, attended Western Nevada College for a semester before taking a break and working two years at AutoZone; also works to improve her accounting and bookkeeping skills as an active member of the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeeping.
Dylan Tedford (‘13), attending the University of Southern California Gould School of Law in the fall; recently graduated from UNR, where he was president of Alpha Tau Omega and served as the attorney general for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
Victoria Leigh Ward (‘14), a senior at Biola University and vice president of chapter development for the Public Relations Student Society of America; studying public relations and Spanish and hopes to pursue a career in government relations.
The two-day summit aimed to equip students from CCHS and Oasis Academy College Preparatory school, as well as those recently graduated, with knowledge and skills to improve their communities and have a successful future. The conference also consisted of leadership workshops, group activities, networking, a service project for high-school beautification and more.
“I’m very excited to be part of this experience,” said LEAD Green volunteer Kiley Woolsey, CCHS alumna and former student body president as well as a workshop presenter.
LEAD Green is focusing on three main functions: the annual leadership summit, scholarship opportunities and a mentorship program. As it grows, the plan is to provide two scholarships for graduating seniors who display exceptional leadership and also pair high school youth with community leaders to increase job shadowing, career planning and overall development.
“LEAD Green is one way for me pay it forward and give back to a community that shaped me into the person I am today,” said Garret Kalt, a senior at Washington State University studying strategic communication and political science as well as elected student body vice president.
Kalt said while they started the summit with 40 students and 20 volunteers, we ended with a close-knit community inspired to better themselves and Churchill County as a whole.
“Witnessing the growth and amount of ‘aw ha’ moments the students had throughout the leadership summit was truly inspiring,” he added. “The students gained self-confidence and will start this school year off on the right foot.”
With the theme “Discovering Your Why,” Kalt said they challenged participants to think beyond what they do and how they do it, encouraging them to think critically about their passions and personal stories as they continue to grow and develop as leaders.
“Our team spent many hours and lots of energy creating our organization, assembling the first annual leadership summit and reaching out to the community,” he said. “In the end, it was more than worth it because we made an impact in the lives of youth — impact we believe will cause a ripple effect of change for Churchill County. We look forward to launching our mentorship and scholarship program as well as continuing to host annual leadership summit.”
For more information and to stay up-to-date, visit www.LEADGreenwave.org.
“We are overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received from our community,” Kalt said. “Thank you to all who contributed and believe in the youth of our community.”