JOHN F. KENNEDY said: “We must do all that we can to give our children the best in education and social upbringing – for while they are the youth of today, they shall be the leaders of tomorrow.”
This belief describes the motivation supporting the annual Washington Youth Tour, which sends high school students on a leadership journey to the Nation’s Capital. Since Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson first urged electric cooperatives to take on this mission in 1957, more than 50,000 students have taken part in the national program.
Emily Bauer, Kristen Gomez, Chris Larkins and Kirtan Parekh will represent Jackson EMC as delegates on the June 11-18 leadership tour of Washington D.C. Along with 108 Georgia delegates, they will join 1,600 co-op delegates from across the nation as they explore museums and memorials and meet with state and national representatives.
EMILY BAUER | Brookwood High School | Class of 2016
"My goal is to make the people around me the best they can possibly be. That is my mission statement."
Emily Bauer is on stage, leading a program for a group of student leaders at Brookwood High School. Everyone can see she is poised, prepared and pulled together. She has spent her high school years pulling people together, a skill she learned from her older brothers.
“Seeing my brothers as examples of selfless leaders from a young age; they’ve always motivated me,” she said.
One way she is making her brothers proud is through the creation of the Brookwood Executive Board, a team made up of all the presidents of Brookwood’s 30+ student organizations.
“When we met, we saw we didn’t have the unity and common bond we really wanted. We are all doing so many awesome things, we had to find out how to work together,” Bauer said. “As a group, we create a more productive school and community.”
Students of all ages look to Bauer for guidance. She serves as a Peer Leader, mentoring struggling high school students. She also works with local elementary and middle school students. She leads the varsity tennis team, the Brookwood leadership team and serves as a Freshman Academy mentor. She’s also a member of the Beta Club, Student Government, Math National Honors Society and Spanish Club.
“In truth, nothing appears to be beyond her intellectual grasp. What truly distinguishes Emily, however, is her extraordinary self-discipline,” Mary Britt, AP teacher at Brookwood High School, wrote about Bauer.
Emily is the daughter of Charles and Janice Bauer of Snellville. She plans to study accounting and finance at the University of Georgia.
CHRIS LARKINS | Dacula High School | Class of 2016
"As a person of Dacula and the world, I do not only want to break ground, change people’s lives and revolutionize society in Dacula; I want to create change throughout the world.”
It’s 6 a.m., more than an hour before school starts at Dacula High School, and Chris Larkins is holding a planning committee meeting for a TEDx event he is trying to bring to Gwinnett County.
“We are inviting ideas; not speakers,” he says to a small group of classmates at the early morning meeting.
Larkins credits his sister, a Georgia Tech sophomore, with sparking his interest in TED Talks.
"I watched three straight hours of TED Talks. Then, I decided that I wanted to bring this curiosity and inspiration to my own school,” he said.
Success for him means this event will spread new ideas, challenge notions and create new possibilities.
“My hope is for students to take these ideas to college with them and into their communities and change the world,” he said.
When he’s not planning Gwinnett County’s first TEDx event, Larkins is bringing other experiences to his school through the founding of the DHS Model United Nations. He’s excelling academically in five AP courses, serving as junior class treasurer and National Honor Society vice-president while on the varsity swim and soccer teams. He’s a member of Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, National English Honor Society, Academic Decathlon and the Dacula Mentoring Team. He is also the baritone section leader in the marching band. On Sunday, he teaches religion classes to first graders at Saint Lawrence Catholic Church.
“My goal is to not only serve my school, but my community as well,” he said. Chris is the son of Alan and Rosanne Larkins of Dacula. He plans to study industrial engineering and business at Georgia Tech or Columbia University.
KRISTEN GOMEZ | Mill Creek High School | Class of 2016
"A true leader's success isn't measured in the power of herself, but rather the power she can engender in others."
It’s Friday night and Kristen Gomez is out with friends – at Fort Daniel Elementary School making copies and designing bulletin boards so teachers can go home and start their weekend. She is the coordinator of the volunteer program that connects Beta Club members with Fort Daniel to lend a hand.
“The biggest part of leadership is integrity because you can’t expect people to follow you if you don’t do what you are asking of them,” Gomez said. “Leadership isn’t so much about standing up in front of people as it is to show them you care and encourage them.”
Noticing a lack of STEM educational opportunities for elementary school students, Gomez founded and co-directed the Duncan Creek Elementary School Robotics Club in 2013. “I felt it was my calling to create this environment and empower others through providing this opportunity for young people to get exposure to robotics,” Gomez said. In addition, she used her skills to found Legacy Gwinnett, an organization that seeks to unite the cluster schools in the community to work toward community improvement.
“She lives the life of a leader by serving others with integrity, commitment and maturity,” Nancy Ward, executive director of the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team wrote about Gomez.
She also holds several leadership positions at Mill Creek High School, including president of the TALON leadership club, director of community outreach for student council, vice-president of Beta Club, and she serves as a student representative on GSLT.
She is not only an outstanding student, currently ranked first in her class, but she is involved in numerous extra-curricular activities as an elite soccer player for MCHS and the Atlanta Fire United. She also volunteered as a camp counselor at the Georgia Aquarium, has logged over 100 hours as a physical therapy intern and works a part-time job.
Kristen is the daughter of Jorge and Marianne Gomez of Dacula. She plans to study biomedical engineering at either Duke, Carnegie Mellon or Yale.
KIRTAN PAREKH | North Gwinnett High School | Class of 2016
"I set my goal, and pursue it with passion and dedication."
The band room at North Gwinnett High School is literally banging with excitement. Kirtan Parekh and his fellow drummers are preparing for tomorrow’s concert – an elite event where only the top percussion ensembles will be showcased.
Before he can take the stage with his band mates, he’ll attend another meeting in Atlanta. As the state president of the Georgia Association of Student Councils, he’s planning the Georgia Student Council Convention for 2016; the theme is “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Leadership.”
“Our goal for the week is to be inspired by dynamic speakers, student-led workshops and activities with leadership messages we can all bring back to our schools and use to make a difference.”
Parekh set goals for impacting his school long ago.
“Day one of my freshman year, I was exposed to the wonders of student leadership,” Parekh said about his experience with Expectations 101, a daylong freshman orientation program at NGHS. “I told myself I would be the leader I saw on stage that day – that I would be planning this for the freshmen in two years.”
Now he is. Parekh worked with the North Gwinnett Student Leadership Team to plan and lead the 2015 Expectations 101 program.
When he isn’t working with students at NGHS as a mentor, drum major, Beta Club meeting coordinator or as the junior class president, he’s reaching out to other Gwinnett County students through the Trident Competition, a scholarship competition he designed and runs. He is also a member of the youth leader board for the city of Suwanee.
“Kirtan is an exemplary student at North Gwinnett, excels in community service and possesses natural leadership ability,” said Adam Edge, Suwanee Downtown and Business Development Manager. “Those qualities, combined with his maturity, integrity and work ethic, give me full confidence Kirtan is not only worthy of selection, but is the quintessential individual for whom this program was created.”
Kirtan is the son of Mehul and Nita Parekh of Suwanee. He plans to study business and industrial engineering at Georgia Tech.