Salute to youth

As they head out into life, all young leaders should remember to not let their balloons deflate.

That was how Kathy Moe presented her encouragement to 81 students from across the area at the National Council on Youth Leadership’s annual Youth Salute Sunday night.

The high school seniors were being honored as NCYL Youth Leaders. They were selected by their schools based on their grade-point average and involvement in leadership positions in school, church or community groups.

After being nominated last year as juniors, the students had to write an essay and prepare a resume, said Pam Bunte, Youth Engagement Coordinator at Trinity Regional Medical Center, who leads the local NCYL chapter. Then they had to complete a mock job interview.

Moe offered four points of advice – remember to give back, never stop getting better, ask of a future career: would I do it for free? And keep your own balloon inflated.

“You are the balloon blower-uppers,” she said. “You understand your peers come to you to be inflated. You understand that you influence lives.”

Sometimes, failure can make you feel like a balloon that just popped, she said. But don’t let setbacks drag you down.

“What I want you to remember is that you need to keep your own balloons inflated. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember to take care of yourself, physically, mentally and intellectually.”

Six finalists were then chosen out of the group to attend the Town Meeting Of Tomorrow, held at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. in October, a three-day event that brings Youth Leaders together from across the nation.

Last year, only four were sent. Large donations were given this year specifically to help send more students, Bunte said.

One of those winners, Fort Dodge Senior High senior Ayenna Cagaanan, said she didn’t expect to be picked.

“I thought everybody else had a pretty good resume,” she said.

Cagaanan’s own resume was pretty full, with volunteer work, Dodger Senate, and leading the marching band as a drum major.

“To be honest, I think what set me out from most of these people is I just became a citizen two years ago,” she said. “So I put a lot of focus on citizenship, what it means to be an American, in my essay.”

Cagaanan came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 2001. She said she’s learned a lot in the NCYL program, especially how to work with other leaders.

John Maubach, of Webster City High School, said it felt pretty awesome to be chosen for the trip.

As examples of his leadership, Maubach said he is class president and president of his 4-H club.

“I’d say my biggest leadership activity is FFA. I’ve been a FFA officer, I’ve also been a chapter officer for three years in a row,” he said.

Though the interview made him nervous, he said was prepared.

“I’ve done interviews and other things like it in the past, through FFA and 4-H, so I kind of knew what was coming.”

Cagaanan had a different perspective.

“The interview was really hard for me,” she said. “We knew the questions beforehand, but then there were ‘fun questions,’ and I blanked on some of them.

“One was, what is your favorite animal and why. I said gorilla, because they look really cool when they eat. Then I walked out of there, and I was like, that was the stupidest thing you could probably say.”