The second annual two-day LEAD Green Leadership Summit encouraged local high-school students to learn more about themselves and the world around them.
This year’s theme of “Act Local, Think Global,” recently provided about two dozen student leaders — most from Churchill County High School and Oasis Academy — an opportunity for them to look at the future and to learn from others who have an interest in the community and the world. They also heard from a former CCHS graduate who has lived in Afghanistan working with university students in speech and debate and later served in the Peace Corps in Morocco.
“Our organization has the unique opportunity to act as a bridge between the charter school and the high school. Success is shared,” said Garrett Kalt, a 2014 CCHS and 2018 Washington State University graduate, who founded LEAD Green. “Together we will cultivate relationships, grow, and inspire.”
Kalt said the acronym represents leadership, education, awareness and development. He focused on the importance for student leaders to beware as citizens and members of the global community as well as knowing what’s occurring around them.
“No matter the issue, everyone has a part to play, and you have to figure out that part,” he said.
Kalt also had students reflect on their community, and what fuels their passion, which was shown through discussion and group activities.
A community leaders’ panel included Dr. Lana Narag, Sheriff Ben Trotter, Brig. Gen. Michael Hanifan of the Nevada Army National Guard and newly appointed Churchill County School District Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens. The moderator’s first question asked the panelists why community service is important.
Narag, who is a physician in Fallon, said community services gives individuals exposure in all aspects of life, which can help. When others are successful, she said they see themselves with others.
“Everyone should get involved as part of our job and as a volunteer,” said Hanifan, who graduated from CCHS in 1983.
As a student at the U.S. Military Academy, he helped with Special Olympics . Not only was it rewarding but Hanifan also said the experience wanted him to volunteer more.
Stephens said community service opens people’s eyes to what’s occurring locally and gives them the chance to network with others. Trotter, who belongs to several service organizations in Fallon, said volunteering allows him to give back to the community.
Panelists discussed challenges they faced.
Totter said developing a work ethic made him more independent …. and humble but strong. Narag, who grew up in the Philippines, attended university there but needed financial help from her uncle who paid the tuition. She couldn’t afford to buy her books so she studied for hours in the library.
“Diligence is very important,” she said. “I had no choice, but I had to show my uncle his money was worth it.”
Another question focused on their calling. Stephens said it’s OK to fail.
“Don’t be shy. Go out there and try. Don’t be afraid,” she said.
Hanifan told students to set a goal for their future calling and then set a plan. He said this generation will change careers more than once. Stephens said school is where students learn, but added students should surround themselves with experts.
“Get out and network with people,” she said. “They are a mentor for you.”
Panelists offered their “biggest” advice to students. Narag said people should turn off their cellphones and be attentive to people, while Trotter re-emphasized work ethic and contributions. Hanifan encouraged them to embrace diversity, and Stephens said they should be good to others.
“Our team and LEAD Green’s mission is to ensure that all Churchill County youth know and believe they can do and become anyone they want to,” Kalt said. “We see LEAD Green as a resource and top advocate in helping them achieve their dreams.”
Rachel Mills, a graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, was the conference’s keynote speaker. She described her life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, how she studied another language and rode a camel. During the last five years, Mills travelled to five continents and studied six languages. In addition to living in Afghanistan and Morocco, Mills also spent five months in Ecuador and three months in Italy.
“Trying new things scares you,” she said.
Before Mills described her overseas adventures, she referred to past experiences with those she met by telling student leaders to talk to others face to face and then listen to what they say. Yet, she gave the students advice.
“When can you tell others are not listening?” she rhetorically asked. “They don’t care.”
Mills, who now works as a paramedic in Reno, stressed listening is a skill that must be developed. When others listen to someone, then that person opens up.
“When you travel somewhere, it’s a lot easier to listen and pay attention to others around you,” she added.
Admitting to having an adventurous streak, she said many opportunities exist to travel overseas and also in Nevada. She said her favorite memories have come from the places she visited. Eventually, she would like to travel to Australia and Antarctica, the only two continents she hasn’t visited.
Blane Merkley, a former CCHS graduate and a group facilitator for LEAD Green, asked Mills for suggestions on a country or city to visit. She said go somewhere, but it’s up to individuals what they want to see and interpret.
Kalt said he was pleased with this year’s event.
“Our students grew, and so did we,” he said. “Although the annual summit is currently LEAD Green’s hallmark program, our team and students are dedicated to growing and empowering one another year round. We look forward to expanding our scholarship opportunities, and launching a mentorship and professional development program.”
Kalt said the participants were able to give back to the community by wrapping hundreds of gifts for students who are placed in foster care in Nevada. This year they wrapped over a hundred gifts for students who are placed in Nevada foster care. Additionally, Kalt is buoyed by the overall support.
“I am overwhelmed with joy at the support this cause has received from the community and key volunteers,” he added. “We could not be who we are today, or who we will become in the future, without our committed team and community.
“Fallon is a supportive community and we hope our youth do not feel limited in who and what they can become.”