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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Area’s top students show grace under pressure

I’m a little jealous of the kindergarteners at Andrews Osborne Academy.

They’re already learning a skill that I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding — mostly because I’m a big chicken.

I’m pretty sure most of you are, too, judging by the responses I get whenever the subject comes up.
Public speaking is No. 1 on the list of phobias, according to the website

According to the site, it finished ahead of death and snakes. I personally would put snakes ahead of both of the other two. But not too far ahead.

A few weeks ago in Columbus, I had to face my fear, standing before a group of about 200 people to deliver the opening remarks at a luncheon. When I received my script for the Associated Press Society of Ohio’s annual meeting, and was shocked to see how many pages of material I had to read.

So I plotted my strategy — spend a week familiarizing myself with the material and another week reading it out loud, over and over. My poor husband heard those lines so many times he probably could have recited it at the luncheon.

But, I got it out, without hesitation and survived the severe heart palpitations that made me wonder if those around me could actually hear the individual beats.

The memory of those nerves came rushing back this week as I watched four area high school students speaking to members of the Willoughby Rotary Club at the group’s annual scholarship luncheon.

After the luncheon, one of the event’s emcees, Andrews Osborne Academy Head of School Charles Roman, said that today’s youngsters have a big advantage over those of us from previous generations.

“At Andrews Osborne, they’re getting up in kindergarten and speaking in front of the class,” he said.
Just another example of what a schlub I was during my school days.

That reminder came only a few minutes after the previous reminder, when I sat and listened to accomplishments of the young ladies competing for the Rotary’s “Student of the Year” award at the event.

Each one of them had a list that went on for a few minutes. There was sports and Key Club and National Honor Society and volunteer work that spanned the stages of life, from Safety Town to food pantry service to meal deliveries. They’ve done Relay for Life, delivered Christmas baskets, coached soccer teams and helped pick the new Kirtland Schools superintendent.

Katherine Benhke of South High School in Willoughby, a graduate of Leadership Lake County’s youth program, was described by her social studies teacher as someone older adults would be proud to call daughter.

Alexandra Vito of Andrews Osborne Academy, a junior competing against three seniors for the honor, is, according to her science teacher, someone who has a desire to take care of her own peers, serving as a role model for all students.

Macy Araps of North High School in Eastlake, who spent some of her free time teaching soccer to an area youth team, also is an avid volunteer with the American Cancer Society, after losing her grandmother to the disease.

The young lady recognized by Willoughby Rotary as its “Student of the Year,” Morgan Choe of Kirtland High, had a two-page list of accomplishments. It’s difficult to pick one to mention here. But I’ll go with her work with the Youth Led Prevention Camp, where high school students came together to discuss the dangers of drug use and create ways to prevent it and reduce bullying in local schools.

When you’re lucky enough to meet youngsters like these, you get a chance to see greatness that’s just about to blossom and take on the world.

We can only hope that they’ll stay on the path they’ve taken so far and achieve all that those who know them best see as their potential.

Just think of how good the world will be when they do.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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