ILEAD Impact Awards Recognize South Salem Teen and McKay Educator

Senior Dara Elkanah was selected for extensive service and leadership within her school and the Salem Keizer community.

Senior Dara Elkanah was selected for extensive service and leadership within her school and the Salem Keizer community.

Photos provided courtesy Salem Keizer Public Schools

Peter Sepulveda, a teacher in his seventh year and the current McKay High School choir instructor, received the ILEAD Impact Award for leadership development professional recognition.

Peter Sepulveda, a teacher in his seventh year and the current McKay High School choir instructor, received the ILEAD Impact Award for leadership development professional recognition.

​ILEAD Youth Leadership Summit held their second live-streamed high school event on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. The one-day summit welcomed teens from all over Oregon representing 21 different high schools, including charters and home schools.

The second annual ILEAD Impact Awards were presented by the ILEAD youth committee to summit guests during opening and closing sessions. 

The award categories recognize a teen leader or group that has had a notable and positive impact in their community, and a youth leadership development professional, program, or organization that has had a significant impact on the next generation of leaders.  The general public nominated individuals or groups and then the Youth Committee voted on each award recipient.

South Salem High School again celebrated a Saxon student receiving the teen leadership honor.  Senior Dara Elkanah was selected for extensive service and leadership within her school and the Salem Keizer community.  Peter Sepulveda, a teacher in his seventh year and the current McKay High School choir instructor, received leadership development professional recognition.

"I am so honored to be in such an amazing community of youth," said Dara when asked to share a few words during the presentation.  "Find a positive in every single day that you live.  It's the reason I've been able to keep going, to find my voice, and to volunteer and be involved in committees, clubs, and leadership groups.  Most importantly, it's helped me reach my goals."  

Dara is the founding president of her school's Best Buddies chapter; the program creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated and inclusive activities, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).  She is involved in both a mental health club and DECA, collects food for houseless community members, serves in a nonprofit organization for African refugee families, and volunteered more than 100 hours at Camp Attitude, assisting children experiencing disabilities.  She's also facilitated training to school staff, serves as a Community Outreach Intern for the Salem Keizer School District, and is a representative for the Student Equity Committee at the school and District level.

"Mr. Sepulveda makes the high school experience fun for all students," said McKay High School Class of 2020 alumnus, Andrew Kalmen. Andrew was a surprise award presenter at the summit. "It's not only the choir program but theater, the Islander Club, Young Life, and the entire McKay Community. He takes the extra effort to foster relationships and has high expectations for us in order to see us succeed."

Senior Grace Caldwell and her classmates nominated Mr. Sepulveda and also surprised him during the presentation.

"Despite all the obstacles he's had thrown his way the last few years, he's always been there for us," Grace said.  "He's the kind of leader who acknowledges your struggles as students and as people to help you become the best you can be."

A graduate from St. Olaf College with a Bachelor's of Music degree in Vocal Musical Education and a Master's of Science degree in Education from Portland State University, Peter Sepulveda says he enjoys the diverse community at McKay High School and appreciates the opportunity to see students grow as leaders and change agents in their community.

Coordinated by the City of Salem Youth Development Services, ILEAD is produced each year by a youth committee and a planning committee made up of local youth development, prevention, mental health, and life readiness professionals. Marion County Health and Human Services, Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties, and the City of Salem were the winter 2021 sponsors.

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Laurie Shaw CasarezYouth Development Education and Outreach Coordinator
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