Leaders of Tomorrow honoured

The keys to Ponoka’s future were recognized April 18 at the annual Leaders of Tomorrow Awards presentation at Ponoka Composite High School.

Don Letwinetz of EnCana presents a Leaders of Tomorrow Award to Gwen Yaro.

The keys to Ponoka’s future were recognized April 18 at the annual Leaders of Tomorrow Awards presentation at Ponoka Composite High School.

The program acknowledges outstanding volunteer contributions by the next generation of community leaders.

“You’re all winners the moment someone picks up a pen and nominates you,” committee member Heather Blackmore told the children.

EnCana is proud to be the major sponsor of the program and to “recognize and acknowledge today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders,” said Don Letwinetz, the company’s community relations advisor.

Mayor Larry Henkelman told the 46 nominees they are a “source of pride” to Ponoka because of their volunteerism and leadership at home, at school and in the community. “You may not realize it but you are positive role models to your friends and peers.”

Henkelman said he was looking out over a roomful of winners and looked forward to hearing about their “future successes and contributions in the years to come.”

Scott Lewis, principal of the Ponoka Outreach School, said the Leaders of Tomorrow are guided by four words. The first is service.

“Leadership really is service,” he said. “Leaders have a servant’s heart.” The nominees make a difference in the community by serving their families, friends, schools and the needy.

Action is another word that molds today’s young leaders. They don’t dwell on personal needs and what they fell like doing today. They ask the question: “What needs to be done? Where is there a hole that needs to be filled.”

Yes and no guide a young leader’s actions, Lewis said. They say no to temptations and no to activities that don’t mesh with their morals. “They say yes to life. Yes to commitment. Yes to being fully in the moment and not being lost in some of the other thoughts that distract us from the matter at hand.”

Lewis said as he looked at the nominees, he thought of a final word: hope. “I see many wonderful, bright, compassionate, hard working kids. That should fill us with hope.”

Emcee Kelly McCheyne introduced the nominees in each age category and invited them to receive a certificate from Letwinetz. Two winners were to be recognized from each group but the judges could not select a winner from among the elementary children and declared them all winners.

Junior winners were 13-year-old Diamond Willow Middle School students Madison Motley and Victoria Verhoek. Motley is a student advisor at, often teaching health lessons. She is a role model for students in all grades. Verhoek is self-motivated and ambitious student advisor with a positive attitude.

Senior winners were St. Augustine School students Payden Miller and Gwen Yaro. Miller is a Grade 12 student who is involved with activities in school, her church and her community. She has volunteered to work in a soup kitchen in Vancouver, B.C. and devotes much of her time to helping the less fortunate. Yaro is a Grade 11 student and a volunteer at the Centennial Centre for Brain Injury and Mental Health. She is active organizing events at school and is quick to lend a helping hand.

Organizer honoured

At the conclusion of the formal program, a gift was given by EnCana to Lynn Gray, who first presented to idea of a local Leaders of Tomorrow program 15 years ago. She has taken a new job in Red Deer and won’t be involved with the program any longer.

“Year after year, Lynn has led the committee and been a driving force for the program,” Letwinetz said.