Leaving a Legacy


Photo by Kelly Royal

Leadership and team building exercise at Jest Park for Youth Leadership Initiative. Pictured: three students and one adult mentor.

The legacy I want to leave behind is not for me. It is not for the praise I will receive from my teachers when I am gone. It is not for others to reminisce about the impact I have made. It is not even to hype me up, or to validate my accomplishments. The reason I want to leave a legacy is for others to follow in my footsteps. I don’t care if no one even remembers who I am. I just want people to know what I did. So they can do it to. Or do better.

I joined two extracurriculars outside of the ADM school district that changed my life in the Fall of 2021. They completely opened my eyes to a world outside of Adel, Iowa. I always felt this little flashing light inside of me when I would speak on pressing topics. I always wanted to say more but never knew how. Our teachers can really fill us up with so much, but they cannot give us life skills, sitting in a classroom. Learning how to use your voice, appropriately?Now that is a life skill.

You are probably wondering why I am rambling on programs I haven’t even named yet, so allow me to introduce you to some central Iowa opportunities that could change your life.

Iowa Youth Congress. My gratitude goes to Mrs. Miller on this one. She saw a passion in me for my local government, when I hadn’t really addressed it myself. Scared to speak up about my opinion, in a room full of those who disagreed, I put my thoughts on the back burner. But after class chats, and passion in my voice, gave me away as an independent thinker. But aren’t we all? At the end of the day, who thinks for us? We do. So it’s not just me who can affect another life. And maybe change the pattern at ADM for only participating in sports or fine arts as extracurriculars. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of those too. But this here, IYC, is different. You want to impact your community on state level? So do it. You know what I learned from Iowa Youth Congress? I learned how to speak to real state legislators. I learned how to draft bills. But most importantly I learned how to advocate for myself and others around me. Even if politics means nothing to you, I promise that this one skill will be used for the duration of your life. You will always find yourself in a position where you need to advocate for yourself, because no one else is going to. Take the risk, step outside of your comfort zone, lean into the fear. You won’t regret it, I know I didn’t.

Thank you Mrs. Basinger because I attribute my success in Youth Leadership Initative to you. You saw a capability in me that for this program that I can now shout to the world. Oh, you aren’t a natural born leader? Oh, you are? Perfect. The program’s role is not to seek out kids who already know how to grab a room’s attention with their voice. It is to choose the kids who want to hone their skills, fine tune themselves, and teach how to lead unconventionally. You can be loud, but it is how you choose to use your volume that matters. Leadership will come from all shapes and sizes, and there is no mold they try to fit you in. The best way to show your success from the program is becoming the best version of yourself. There is more to this Greater Des Moines Partnership program than what is in the surface. With it, comes excursion days that teach you all about the area around you. Even if you find yourself to be the best leader in the room, this program will send you home, wanting to know more. I learned about poverty, homelessness, the environment, the role I play in my community, and so many more pressing issues, in one day alone. I cannot think of a better example of being shown life outside of my little bubble. They say ignorance is bliss, but the knowledge I gained, the passion I found, and the people I met from YLI is incomparable to bliss, as it is so much more fulfilling.

Both programs have applications processes to discover your commitment and willingness to learn. I would have been content just applying to these programs, and not receiving acceptance, because that process alone was such a major life skill to have learned. Applications will follow you wherever you go, whether for a job or college, you will need to know how to talk about yourself. In person interviews are another thing that I could not have gone without learning. Being prepared and being attentive are the two most important skills I caught from interviewing.

But what does any of this mean to you? How does me gaining knowledge affect your life in any way?

I doubt you will hear much from me again after reading this, as this is the most important message I want to leave ADM with. Think of it like this, I am the middle man. Delivering a message that I believe everyone should hear. This article is the only thing standing in your way of an open door with something completely new on the other side of it. Someone in our community has got to step up and learn everything these opportunities have to offer. And maybe even more. If not you, then who? These two programs are not the only ones out there. They are not the only opportunities for your growth and success. But this is where you can start. Guys, don’t worry, I took the leap first. The hard part is over, and the standing out is over. Now you can follow the legacy set in place. But remember, it is not my legacy. And it won’t be yours either. This legacy is not a tangible thing. It’s not a checkpoint, but an idea. The idea of progression. The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone. The idea of changing lives with your voice. Anyone can do it, even you.