Students and staff members participate in a May 15 leadership training and luncheon attended by Dr. Timothy Benson, assistant medical director for the NBA/NBA Player Assistance Program Anti-Drug Program. The luncheon was catered by students in the Culinary Arts magnet program and teacher David Finnie.

Photos by Cheryl Boatman

Students spread positivity

If you want to know the truth about Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies, ask those who know it firsthand.

“These kids are very respectful, they’re very humble, they’re willing to help out. There’s so much diversity, they’ll open arms and welcome anybody who comes here. So you can be who you are. You don’t have to pretend when you come in here. They’re accepting,” said Steve Brannon, an educational advocate at Fort and former professional football player.

“You only really know once you start going to this school,” said sophomore Gabriel Root, a school ambassador who’s involved in 4-H and training guide dogs and hopes to become a professional chef. “All the people here are people that care. We’re here for a reason.”

With an eye on spreading the positivity of their diversity-rich school, Root and his classmates have embarked on a mission to cultivate leadership skills among students through extensive training.

Leadership, the students say, starts small—opening doors, picking up trash. It grows into sustained support of one another and an environment that embraces differences.

“We want to show people that we’re all a family. We’re all here to support each other,” said Janna Ingalla, also a sophomore. Ingalla is part of the school’s Medical Arts magnet program and plans to pursue a career in anesthesiology. She has been involved in several community service projects through extracurricular activities including Key Club, Red Cross and National Honor Society.

Brannon and colleagues Andrea Johnson, Cindy Cooper, Stephanie Colantino, Alison Watson, Jody ViDelco, James Ensley, Allison Darke, James Cederstrom, Ken Roberts and John Schultz have supported students’ efforts hone their skills and talents. An ambassador program and leadership summit have focused students’ thinking and actions while also teaching related skills such as fine dining etiquette.

Fort’s student leaders got a boost this spring from a prestigious guest: Dr. Timothy Benson, acclaimed author, speaker and assistant medical director for the NBA/NBA Player Assistance Program Anti-Drug Program. Dr. Benson demonstrated “through dedication and hard work, in time you can become anything you want. That goes for this school as well,” said Ingalla.

“It’s good to get leadership skills at an early age,” said Dr. Benson. “They’re going to be going to the next level, so they’ll have more of the social piece of their development that’s going to serve them well.”

After all, leadership takes time and repeated effort. But the effects of Fort’s student leaders already can be witnessed.

Dr. Benson added, “I believe there’s a lot of good things going on inside of this school that more people need to know about it. … I’m inspired to come here.”

“We’re all here to support each other.”

—Janna Ingalla, sophomore

“All the people here are people that care.”

—Gabriel Root, sophomore