State Sen. Thomas McElveen wants graduates of this year’s Junior Leadership Kershaw County program not to forget to “look around” in the midst of their busy lives for chances to contribute to the world around them.
“I want you to do something,” McElveen said near the end of his speech to this year’s Junior Leadership graduates during an April 24 banquet at the Robert Mills Courthouse. “No matter how old you are and where you go from here, step outside of your comfort zone and help someone else and make a positive change in your community.”
McElveen pointed out that the group participated in community service projects, but said they should not stop there.
“As you move forward, take an occasional detour on your own highway of success and good fortune and help someone else, or push for a cause you believe in. Continue to actively look for ways you can serve. You won’t regret it,” he said.
McElveen said local leaders -- in their schools and in the community -- had identified them as the next generation of leaders who will make the state and county great. He then went on talk about two things he felt were very important to him and that he hoped would be important to the Junior Leadership graduates: service and citizenship.
He shared his favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
“What can you do to make someone else’s life better? What are you doing to make the world around you a better place? You’ve already proven that you’re motivated and that you have what it takes to be successful,” McElveen said, adding that they have an “aptitude and potential for greatness” that should make them successful as they finish high school and graduate.
McElveen also noted that “the world is a competitive place, moving faster and faster.” He acknowledged that service and citizenship can be costly pursuits in terms of time and money, but remembered something his father told him when he began practicing law a decade ago.
“I’ll never forget my father … telling me that practicing law was, by tradition, a service profession,” McElveen said.
He said his father reminded him that while lawyers, and doctors have historically been service professionals, some members of those professions have lost sight of that concept.
“I think about that all the time,” he said. “They say money may not buy happiness, but it can raise a lot of problems. Sure, making money is nice and having an adequate means to support your family is certainly nice and necessary … but having job satisfaction, ladies and gentlemen, is priceless.”
McElveen admitted that running for office and serving in the S.C. Senate have taken time away from the people and things he loves, including his wife and family.
“But even during the tough times and things become stressful, we always come to the same conclusion: How would we feel if we’d done nothing at all?”
McElveen ended by suggesting they should “enjoy and celebrate” their accomplishment at completing Junior Leadership.
“But don’t sit on it for too long before you begin building on it,” he urged. “Keep your eyes focused forward and look for opportunities where you can make a difference in your corner of the world.”
He concluded by quoting Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
The April 24 banquet marked the completion of Junior Leadership’s 26th year. Following McElveen’s remarks, students, their parents and others present watched a video highlighting the year’s activities. Afterward, Camden City Councilwoman Laurie Parks, chair of Junior Leadership’s steering committee and the evening’s hostess, introduced student speakers from each of the four participating schools. Each school’s group decided on the speakers, tasked with talking about the importance of student leadership.
The four speakers were Haley Maree, Camden High School (CHS); Nathan Lusk, Camden Military Academy (CMA); Mary Ann White, Lugoff-Elgin High School; and Summer Catoe, North Central High School.
Haley focused on the group’s experience at Camp Gravatt & Conference Center outside Aiken and, especially, of a fellow Junior Leadership participant from CHS.
“We faced many obstacles, including the high -- make that very high -- ropes course,” she said. “Zach Boykin taught us an important lesson during the ropes course. Zach told us that he is somewhat afraid of heights, but he didn’t let that fear defeat him. When our guide asked if anyone wanted to go first, Zach quickly jumped up and said, ‘Yes, I’ll go first.’”
Haley explained that students had to climb a high telephone pole wearing a harness and that, after reaching the top, they had to stand atop it, then jump off and hit a doge ball hanging from a nearby tree.
“Zach got about halfway up the telephone pole and said he had to come down because he couldn’t do it,” she said. “With the encouragement of other Junior Leadership students, Zach was able to make it to the top of the pole. After reaching the top, Zach realized he was facing the wrong way, so he had to turn around and then stand up on top of the pole. It was so exciting to watch Zach stand up, jump off and fall to the ground. He was an impressive leader by not only volunteering to go first, but also by facing his fear of heights!”
Nathan started out by saying his older brother used to bully him, but that they are now best friends. He said their earlier relationship actually helped shape his future leadership characteristics. He said good student leadership is a good trait to have because it helps others as well as yourself.
“Not only was I responsible for my actions, but those of others as well,” Nathan said of being a student leader at CMA. “For example, if a cadet that I am in charge of makes a mistake, I am the one held accountable by my sergeant.”
Nathan also emphasized that good leadership is what one does not only when people are watching, but when they’re not. He also said that Junior Leadership has helped him on and off the drill field, by “helping motivate me to do better and succeed” in the classroom and “to be a role model” for his fellow cadets.
Mary Ann said a leader is “someone who will go the extra mile … motivates, encourages and directs.” She said she and her fellow Junior Leadership participants are now more prepared to be more effective, influential and better able to handle situations in all aspects of their lives.
“When my group was with a camp counselor, he wanted us to do a balance exercise on a large … contraption,” Mary Ann said. “As we balanced both sides with everyone on the edge of it, we had to sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” After trying multiple times, we figured out that we probably needed a strategy.”
She said two students were able to lead others to help the group succeed, teaching them that, even in little ways, success came from helping the group as a whole.
In her speech, Summer said that “if you are following a crowd, you can’t expect to lead them,” but that true leadership is “to put the needs of others before your own.” She said student leaders are needed to help fellow students voice opinions so that adults understand what they want. Summer also said that an important of being a student leader is encouragement.
“As leaders, a role we should play in our schools and in everywhere we go is encouraging others,” she said. “Without encouragement, people tend to forget that they are capable of doing amazing things, and with people thinking like that, amazing things won’t get done.”
Next, Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and CMA Commandant of Cadets Lt. Col. Pat Armstrong presented individual plaques to the Junior Leadership graduates. After that, Parks announced the winner of the Robert J. Sheheen Junior Leadership Award.
“Every year, the students of Junior Leadership are asked to nominate one of their peers for (this) award,” Parks explained, and then read nomination comments. “‘This person should win this award because they have the important characteristic of kindness.’ ‘This student is always willing to work with others.’ ‘This student is a happy and genuine person whose deserving of this award.’ ‘She’s extremely--’ and now you know it’s a she ‘--intelligent, often asking speakers difficult questions. She’s very confident in what she says and does, and she is very encouraging to others.’ ‘She not only meets the criteria … but far exceeds them.’ ‘She manages to get things done and keep her big smile and even bigger heart. She is an inspirational young woman.’”
And, Parks added, one student wrote of this year’s winner: “But if she wins this award, she’ll have a really funny reaction and I really want to see that.”
Parks then announced that CHS’ Haley Maree had won the award.
She concluded the gala by honoring an outgoing member of the Junior Leadership Steering Committee. Parks presented a gift to Doug Marsden, an instructor at CMA, noting that he had been part of Junior Leadership since 1997.