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Sunday night’s graduation ceremony of Los Alamos Youth Leadership (LAYL) participants was all about being a positive force and leading by example with character and conviction.
“There are leaders and there are those who help leaders to lead,” Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy told the teens at Central Avenue Grill. “And then there are snipers – those who sit in the weeds, hide in the background and write in the blogs ... These snipers do nothing to contribute to others.”
Torpy praised the youth for their many community-oriented accomplishments, including fundraising projects from which they contributeed the proceeds to area organizations that help the needy.
“These young folks are really a small measure of a lot of good kids in our community,” Torpy said. “As police chief it’s an honor for me to work with this community and even a greater honor to work with these young folks.”
Torpy also thanked Sharon Stover, whom he described as the engine behind LAYL and many other community programs and projects.
James E. Holloway, assistant secretary of education for rural areas, presented a motivational talk to the graduates. He took a moment to look around the roomful of chipper teens, proud parents and enthusiastic community leaders.
“I’m very impressed with everything going on in this community,” Holloway said.
Holloway noted six qualities that leaders possess to inspire people to follow them: truthfulness, fairness, trust, respect, caring and citizenship.
LAYL Program Facilitator Sean Hall of On the Edge Productions has worked with the program since its inception three years ago.
“One of the reasons why I go out and do this is because I look at the state of the world ... and I look to this group of people to go out and make a difference in the world,” he said.
The teens praised Hall for all he’s done for them and thanked him with a special cheer.
“You helped us become leaders, Sean, and we thank you for that,” graduate Craig Girrens said.
The LAYL graduation was attended by many community leaders including County Administrator Max Baker, County Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson, Superintendent of Schools James Anderson, School Board President Steve Girrens and William Phillips, who heads the Counterintelligence Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“This is one of the best programs we do for youth in the community and the county is proud to sponsor it,” Baker said. “We see a lot of good coming out of it thanks to the support from parents and community leaders.”
Anderson credited LAYL with helping youth develop a variety of leadership skills. “There are a lot of obstacles involved in the process of completing projects and this program teaches them about that and that’s what we like to see.”
Gibson and his wife Lori Heimdahl Gibson are strong youth supporters.
“Leadership is not one of the three Rs,” he said. “We tend to learn by ‘on the job training’ and make lots of mistakes along the way. LAYL and programs like this are helping a new generation of leaders to take over leadership positions at a younger age.”
The teens are used to mingling with these community leaders and many others they’ve been involved with throughout the year. Los Alamos High School senior Emily Breiner, 18, said the program got her involved in the community much more than she would have been otherwise. “It was really worthwhile,” she said. “I met a lot of important people and it really made a difference.” Breiner plans to study pre-law next year at Colorado State University.
LAYL graduate Jeremy Kasik, 18, enrolled in the program the summer before his sophomore year in high school. He recommends the program to everyone.
“This is my third year, and I think it’s the people who’ve kept me coming back,” Kasik said. “Every single year it seems like we get more done. This is a good experience no matter what kind of person you are – because there are all kinds of people here.”
Sunday’s graduation included a special dinner hosted by Los Alamos National Bank.
For information about next year’s LAYL class, which kicks off July 21-22, access www.losalamosjjab.com.