“Paula, these kids are amazing!”

That is the opening line of my call home whenever I leave a meeting of the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands when two Lake Highlands High School seniors, one boy and one girl, receive their award as “Youth of the Month.” You see their photos each month in the Advocate and I want to assure you, these students are amazing. Stellar grades, yes. Extracurricular activities, a ton of them. Awards, more than you can count. But there is more, much more.

These young adults have discovered inner passions and are taking steps to pursue their dreams. This year’s award recipients shared their personal stories through essays, and the following quotes provide a glimpse of each student’s passion:

Zein Nakhoda is a renaissance man with varied interests: “I believe that one day I will pursue what I find important without letting time limit my potential…the development of my individual perspectives, and ultimately my understanding, is what is most important to me because it is my source of truth.”

Daisy Litaba has long known the direction of her life: “At the tender age of three years old, I had already set my mind on becoming a successful doctor. Through surgery, I will be able to affect many lives, especially those that come from lower-income backgrounds and cannot afford proper healthcare.”

William Kiker’s lifelong goal is to be a classroom teacher, and he is inspired by: “seeing some of the ‘F’ students striving to get ‘C’ because I am helping them…being able to talk with a troubled student that may be about to make a life-threatening decision…seeing the ‘click’ finally happen in a student’s brain after working with them on a troubling concept.”

Erin Mellinger’s passion is the Young Life ministry, serving in Lake Highlands and overseas: “Young Life reminds me every day of the greater purpose that I serve on this earth…I know that with God on my side, I can do anything I want to do.”

Oz Davis has a passion for music performance and sharing his Christian faith: “I hope and pray that I can use these passions to shape a future that will bring joy, happiness and contentment to me and everyone I meet.”

Kati Herrera plans to serve others with a degree in international relations: “I appreciate the time and investment others have made in me. And the urge to give back does not come from a sense of obligation, but is rather a willing choice.”

Andrew Conwell wrote about his three volunteer weeks serving high-schoolers at a Young Life camp: “God was working through me to help the campers, but it also turns out that they were helping me.”

Rachel Horres sees touching lives as her passion: “Whether it be by a smile or a hug, a prayer or a thought, I long [for] them to see the stunningly beautiful world that surrounds each and every one of us. I long to be an everyday angel.”

Patrick Hesseler observed that “football has shown me lessons about life that I might never have discovered. Lessons such as camaraderie, patience, self control, adversity, and even failure.”

Jenna Popp has a newfound passion for learning: “Knowledge, as kindling, has fueled my fire within…I am motivated to pursue my passion daily by observing other people chasing their ardor.”

Cole Wrightson proposed a response to terrorism: “A car bomb can be silenced by a thousand united voiced fueled by the flame of change and a commitment to the advancement of all humanity.”

Simcha McIntosh reflected on her various volunteer efforts: “Many of these activities started out as needing to fulfill a requirement for service hours, but trite as it sounds, I found that even though I was doing something for someone else, really I was the one benefiting.”

These youth are evidence that our neighborhood schools prepare students for success in academics and life. Be optimistic for our future.

See you at school.