Laurels for Leaders honors Associated Student Body presidents

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In their time serving their fellow students, holding offices and governing positions, planning school events, serving on committees, Associated Student Body presidents from San Diego County were honored for hard work and commitment.

In their time serving their fellow students, holding offices and governing positions, planning school events, serving on committees, Associated Student Body presidents from San Diego County were honored for hard work and commitment.

On Feb. 18, Laurels for Leaders Foundation, in partnership with the Kiwanis Club and US Bank, held its annual awards luncheon. For 57 years, the Laurels for Leaders Foundation hosted this event during the observations of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays, in recognition of patriotism by way of service.

Ninety-six local high schools were represented. The ASB presidents sat with mentors, counselors, or teachers during the luncheon with San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria as the keynote speaker. 

Laurels for Leaders presented awards to each ASB president. Each received cash awards and certificates of appreciation for their leadership, but what they take away is less visible and more internal. The distinction from a prestigious organization gave them more fuel for the long road ahead, just past high school.

Megan Dunn of Granite Hills High School is a three-year ASB representative, and in currently serving as president.

“I have always been a shy person, but ASB has made me so confident, the woman I am today. Events like homecoming, hosting it for 5,000 people, my fears are completely gone now,” said Dunn.

After graduation, Dunn leaves for service in the Air Force where she plans to become a diagnostic imager.

These students have years of academic accomplishments under their belts, while anxiously awaiting the next institution, to achieve more. They have served their peers while governing them, and struck personal balance in between. 

Ryan Pena, ASB president of Santana High School served three years in the ASB, once as Commissioner of Assemblies.

“ASB has taught me a lot about myself,” said Pena. “Gave me a lot of confidence…I learned how to present myself well.”

Pena said as a result of speaking in front of the entire school, he hopes to study medicine at UC Davis.

Anthony Grimm, ASB president from West Hills High School is in the same waiting period as Pena and his fellow seniors—they have heard from some colleges and are anticipating responses from others. Their collegiate destination may be uncertain, but a noticeable common denominator among each ASB president was how they parlay their experiences into new territory. Grimm’s sights are set on California colleges, with UCSD as his first choice.

“There’s a lot of things that ASB prepares you for, like how to work in groups, how to take charge when no one else seems to want to, it teaches you life lessons, and learning respect for those above you,” Grimm said. “People seeing me as a leader is the best thing I could ever ask for.”

Former Madison High School ASB president Gloria shared his own high school stories. He engaged the younger audience, bridging the gap with social media terms like hashtag and tweet. He eluded to trends of his time as a teenager (the Macarena), offered insight into how social things come and go, but some things in society do not change—society will always need leaders. “You have something in you that’s worth fighting for,” Gloria said.

“I want to recruit you stay involved. I want to recruit you into public service. There are lots of ways to serve your community,” Gloria said. “It’s not about getting rich. It’s about leaving this world better than you found it.” 

That idea resonated with Oday Yousif, ASB president from Valhalla High School. Yousif is a Chaldean first-generation American. Born in San Diego, his first language was Aramaic.  Yousif takes pride in his community, his school, and his culture, he said, and wants to serve them all.

“Public service is my goal. I’m always trying to look for a way to help those around me and public service is the way to do that,” he said. “ASB is a stepping stone to that career. Other people come out [of ASB] as very spirited, enthusiastic, other students in ASB come out to be great in marketing because they know how to sell an idea. Others come out as leaders, we know how to lead a group, we know how to guide a group, we know how to make the best of any situation.”

Yousif intends to study political science, his goal being in a Washington D.C. area university. After earning his undergraduate degree, he plans to go for his Masters.

An award was given out to the winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom from Hunger Drive as the luncheon program ended. Grossmont High School won and was awarded $1,500 for their school.

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