Thirty outstanding Ponoka youth were on display at the 12th Annual Leaders of Tomorrow awards on April 27 at the Kinsmen Community Centre.
The winners in the elementary category were Steven Olsen and Fallon Jenkins. In the junior category the winners were Taylor Baron, Alexandra Josephison and Alison Beier. In the senior category the winners were Samantha Sperber and James Fenske (for full bios on each of the winners see the volunteer section of this week’s Ponoka News). Each winner received a plaque and will be off to an upcoming 4-H Leadership camp.
Each youth nominee had their named called and they stepped up beside the podium and stood there, some shy, humbled by the attention, some nervous being the centre of attention and some giddy with smiles from ear to ear. As they stood a list of their accolades and accomplishments were read off, they each received a certificate and a well deserved round of applause.
MP Blaine Calkins spoke to the youth saying that volunteerism is always essential to Canada and that volunteers benefit both those that they are helping and the volunteers themselves. He also noted that teens have extra enthusiasm that they show when they are volunteering and their efforts at an early age help them become active citizens.
Reeve of Ponoka County Gordon Svenningsen noted that one of theses leaders might be a future mayor or reeve one day and that volunteers really make the community and help it thrive. He also said that in 1962 both he and Mayor of Ponoka Larry Henkelman graduated from Ponoka Composite High school and he never thought they would be leaders.
“This is a great example of our community in action,” said Henkelman. “There are always more youths getting involved and it is great to see the amount of youth that are nominated. With all the great things that they are doing they don’t have time to get into trouble.”
The guest speaker for the afternoon was Olympian, 10 time Canadian champion and six time world champion Christine Nordhagen. She spoke about how she grew up in a very small town in northern Alberta, similar to Ponoka and was involved in many of the same activities that the youth were involved in.
“If it happened to me it could happen to you. Keep working hard and success will come your way,” said Nordhagen.
She told her story how she just started out wrestling when women’s wrestling was being introduced at a national level. She said that she almost quit after things had been going tough but one of her teammates motivated her to continue.
She said to approach every situation with a positive attitude and stop negative thoughts by replacing them with positive thoughts. Also, that it is important to surround yourself with positive healthy people.
As she was walking into the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece she started to cry as she remembered when she was a new student in junior high school. The group of girls that she was hanging out with all started to smoke and she said no. It went on another day and on the third day she made a decision not to hang out with these girls anymore. She asked the audience, do you think I would have made it to the Olympics if I had taken that cigarette that day? The response was a ‘no’ in a low, whisper that came from the audience, made up of mostly children and their parents.
Nordhhagen was an exceptional motivational speaker. She interacted well with the crowd, rolled with the situations that were presented to her as her discussion went on and was always smiling and energetic.
PES Grade 5 and 6 choir provided entertainment for the crowd singing the Terry Fox theme song written by a former teacher “I Can Make a Difference and “We are the Children.”
The afternoon concluded with a kid friendly lunch of pizza, pop and cake.
All of the youth who were in attendance were reminded that they were are winners and they are the leaders of tomorrow.