The following story was submitted by 2016 Jostens Renaissance Student Scholarship Recipient Kelty Pierce. Kelty is a senior at Puyallup High School in Puyallup, WA.
Often we are so focused on final products, winning or losing, success or failure, we forget to take an inventory of lessons we learn along the way. Losing is exactly what I needed to show myself nothing could stand in my way when I created a goal for myself, especially when it came to leadership. A student council representative throughout junior high, ASB was a natural next step freshman year. I ran. I lost. I lost big. I had two choices: be bitter and remove myself from leadership, or prove I didn’t need a title to accomplish anything, especially serving my school and community. I chose the latter and haven’t stopped running since.
Puyallup is a three-year high school, so I wasn’t introduced to Renaissance until my sophomore year. I had developed a crush on leadership in junior high and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others, and just a few weeks in to the Renaissance program, it was no longer just a crush: I fell in love, hard and fast. I heard about Puyallup leadership before but had no idea what Renaissance was how profound of an impact it would have on my life — in high school, and beyond. My first projects were recognizing fall athletes and students with perfect attendance, and preparing for homecoming week (we gave over 2500 pieces of recognition to our 1600 students). I was committed. This is what Renaissance was all about. I firmly believe harboring a culture of inclusiveness and recognizing successes of all sizes is key to building our greatest high school, and I made it my goal to be a part of that legacy at Puyallup, and help expand the Renaissance legacy internationally.
Sophomore year I identified the strongest senior leaders and clung to them to absorb all I could. I shadowed them during large projects, asked questions every step of the way, and worked alongside them helping in whatever capacity I could. I was spending ten hours a week in and outside of class working on Renaissance, and was constantly looking for more ways to serve. I had set a goal dedicating myself to our program, and nothing would stand in my way of serving my school.
Senior year, Puyallup was asked to host the Washington State Association of Student Leaders (AWSL) annual conference, our largest state leadership conference, and I was appointed conference chair. I now had the opportunity to share the building blocks of Renaissance on the biggest leadership stage in the state. I had already set a goal of expanding Renaissance, and this was the opportunity I needed to showcase the program I loved so dearly. From start to finish, program to decorations, activities to closing speaker, Renaissance ideas were the driving force. Nearly 1200 attendees were exposed to the power of Renaissance. My heart was full — the Renaissance legacy was growing, just as I had set out to accomplish nearly three years prior.
December of senior year brought my eleventh major hip surgery. Wheelchair bound, I was grounded to our leadership room during January — a tough transition from my typical run-around-the-school agenda. Being grounded forced me to focus on recovery and to take care of myself first. Stepping back from “lead” ushered me full circle, as the eager underclassman, stepping forward, now looked to me to guide their just-beginning Renaissance legacy. I was leading the same conversations regarding their academic and leadership goals that my senior leadership mentors had with me years ago.
I spent high school working to leave a legacy of Renaissance, but can now see the true impact it made on me: it is not just a program it is a lifestyle that has helped to solidify my life-long passion of serving others as well as recognizing the importance of investing time in others as well as myself. The goals I set as a sophomore in leadership are only partially completed. I know that it is because of Renaissance I have been able to leave a legacy of service at Puyallup: however, the latter part of my goal, expanding Renaissance internationally, has yet to be completed. I know that this will take time to accomplish, but it is a goal Renaissance has provided me the tools and confidence to accomplish, and I can’t wait to continue my legacy with Renaissance because everyone deserves a high school experience just like mine. An experience centered around a program that encourages students to set goals for themselves and work hard to see them accomplished so they, too, can feel the joy I feel when reflecting on high school.