Rotary clubs in Onslow County came together to host the Onslow Rotary Student Leadership Conference on March 15 at the Jacksonville Country Club.
The Rotary clubs have been hosting this event for the last 30 years when Dr. Kay B. Gresham, the first female president of the Jacksonville Rotary Club in 1997, started the program.
Each year, the Rotary asks high school counselors and teachers to nominate 12 high school juniors to attend the conference. Juniors are selected based on their potential for leadership within their school and community. Every year, there are about 100 juniors as well as foreign exchange students who participate in the program.
The purpose of the conference is to promote leadership and volunteerism within the community. Students learn about the different leadership characteristics and are taught how to focus on discovering their own unique leadership qualities.
This year’s keynote speaker was Matt Ham, co-founder of YouPrint. Ham has written several motivational books that are applicable to high school students or adults seeking self-awareness and inspiration through stories of successful people. Ham is a storyteller and speaker who helps others see what living rich actually means.
“I ask that you open your mind to the possibility that there is much more to being rich than simply your wealth, or desired wealth,” Ham writes in his book Redefining Rich: A New Perspective on the Good Life.
Ham believes that being rich is becoming who you were meant to be.
“Life is full of moments that can define you, derail you, or drive you. You choose how you respond,” Ham writes.
Throughout the conference students learned about five leadership qualities: courage, integrity, vulnerability, empathy and humility.
“Watching the students working in their peer groups was like watching poetry in motion,” said Kathy Askins, Chairman of the Rotary leadership program. “Undoubtedly, the juniors learned that leaders take the narrow path versus the wide path because this tends to be the path to success. The narrow path is supposed to be a harder path. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Leadership takes stepping into who you were created to be. This is what defines the richness within us.”
When asking students about what they had learned about leadership, Kelis Clarke of Northside High School said she had learned that, “Even if you’re somewhat shy, have confidence in yourself and try to do your best.”
She said that the ROTC program at the school has also taught her many things about leadership. Clarke said she feels more confident about college decisions based on participating in leadership opportunities.
Carter Askins of Jacksonville High School said, “You can’t be a follower. You must be a trend-setter. Be yourself. Believe that you can do something instead of believing that you can’t.”
Students also were introduced to Rotary’s motto, “Service Above Self” and the Four-Way Test, which are principles that are used when confronted with a difficult ethical decision.
Jeremy Kight of White Oak High School said, “We must have empathy for others and understand where others come from and what they feel. To do this, we must have confidence in ourselves.”
Among Lejeune High School students in attendance were Kayla Lazaro, Hannah Velarde, Nate Presson, Noah Tungett, Taylor Pound, Caroline Morgan, Ashley Tagle, Benjamin Furness, Mya Jones and Lee Balderaz.