Rotary youth invade Caz
By Doug Campbell
Cazenovia College was the host to nearly 40 of the best and brightest teenagers from across Central New York this past weekend. They were selected by Rotary clubs in District 7150 to attend the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Awards seminar. The teens received instruction on leadership, time management, teamwork, decision-making and communication skills. The event culminated Sunday with a recognition banquet, at which District Governor Larry Calabrese was the keynote speaker. More than 140 were signed up to attend the banquet.
On Saturday, Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Wheeler asked a room full of students, who changes the world?
"Who has affected my life? Who here has been directly affected by a senator?" asked Wheeler.
Wheeler, a history teacher at Cazenovia High School and Cazenovia village trustee, served in both the Gulf War and more recently in Iraq. A Harvard graduate, Wheeler was considering a career in government; he wanted to make a difference. After considering those who had made the greatest impact on his life, he decided to become a teacher.
"The most important changes that happen are at a grassroots level," Wheeler said. Wheeler spoke at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Seminar Saturday morning. Students attending the seminar were awarded the tuition, room, and board by their local Rotary clubs. The award was given to students who exhibited leadership potential and willingness to serve others.
Wheeler's lecture was entitled "Don't wait for someone else to change the world." He stressed the importance of random acts of kindness, using examples from his time in Iraq and his experience as a mortgage banker. He explained that he is proud of his accomplishments as a teacher, soldier, and trustee.
"There's not going to be a statue of me, but in little ways, I've made a difference," Wheeler said.
When asked how the students could make a difference in their local communities, Wheeler told the students to make their voices heard at public meetings. He also encouraged the creation of venues where young people can have leadership roles. The following students attended the seminar.
Each Rotary club is encouraged to nominate at least one high school student to attend RYLA. It is ideally geared to teenagers who are currently in their junior or sophomore years and who display leadership potential and a willingness to serve others. In special cases, freshmen are considered.