A once-in-a-lifetime experience
Britta Arendt / Editor
Last updated: Monday, September 10th, 2007 08:11:18
They said they needed someone to wake the crowd up in the morning,” smiled Kelci Meade a student of EdVision's Northern Lights Community School, as she talked about her experience presenting the opening remarks of the regional conference of Helping America’s Youth in St. Paul.
A federal initiative led by Laura Bush, Helping America’s Youth is an effort to engage adults in helping young people stay on the right track, set high goals and develop the skills and confidence to achieve them. Kelci spoke at one of several regional conferences held throughout the nation on Aug. 3 in St. Paul, Minn. She spoke in front of a large crowd of youth and adults, including the First Lady herself.
“I was a little nervous, but I tried to tell myself she’s just a person,” said the charismatic young high school graduate of Mrs. Bush.
Kelci learned about Helping America’s Youth from Americorps volunteers at her school. She put together a small but unique speech and sent it to the organization, hoping to represent northern Minnesota at the conference.
“They asked us to talk about special adults in our life and I knew everyone would talk about their mom. I wanted to talk about my mom but decided to talk about Northern Lights Community School instead because I have had so many opportunities through the school.”
Not only was Kelci chosen to represent the Northland, she was given the honor of opening the conference and then introducing University of Minnesota President Dr. Robert Bruininks who gave the welcome speech.
Announced as one of the nation’s outstanding youth speakers, Kelci was first to welcome the crowd to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. With poise, Kelci began:
“Hi and welcome to Minnesota. I’m Kelci Meade and I’m a recent graduate of Northern Lights Community School and I live in northern Minnesota. In public school, I wasn’t happy and knew that it just wasn’t the thing for me so I took a leap of faith and enrolled in a charter school that had just opened up. When I first met the director and staff, I knew right away that I was going to like the new environment. I learned, hands on, all those things I could get into: I strung a snowshoe, made a sundial and some friends and I made a great mosaic using completely scrap glass. We even planned a trip to London and got credit for it; better yet, we were actually able to go.”
Kelci further explained how her teachers at NLCS had made all the difference—the heart of Helping America’s Youth. And she did what she set out to do—to wake up the crowd, garnering many chuckles for her witty perspective on those influential adults in her life.
“My teachers told me to pursue whatever was in my heart; just to clean my desk first...But, here’s what really gets me: These people put precious time and thought into me. I wasn’t their child, I wasn’t their neighbor or a relative, just a stranger really. So what could they have given me to try to help me in life? I had the pencils and paper, I just really needed that investment in me that they gave me.”
Applause followed and Kelci had her picture taken with the First Lady. She said what impressed her most about the conference was how it was all geared toward youth.
“Kids had first priority; it was cool.”
Kelci said she will always remember the wonderful yet, sometimes seemingly simple, experiences she had at NLCS like making a map of the stars and taking short field trips.
“We went to so many places. We even took a trip to the post office and the funeral home. You’d never believe how happy the people are who work at the funeral home.”
As for meeting Laura Bush, Kelci said, “She was so nice.” As for representing northern Minnesota, Kelci said, “I felt like the up north hick, but that was OK.”
Kelci has started school at Anoka Ramsey Community College in the Twin Cities. She plans to study psychology. She is the daughter of Holly and Doug Meade of Bovey.
The Meade family recently received a copy of Kelci’s photo taken with Laura Bush, who included a personal note which reads:
“I am pleased that your parents attended the conference and know that they are proud of you. President Bush and I are too. We send our congratulations on your graduation from Northern Lights Community School and our best wishes for a happy and fulfilling future.”