The Nevada Journal’s final Senior Spotlight of this school year features a Nevada student who spent the better part of her senior year also serving as lt. governor of the Nebraska-Iowa Key Club District.
Elizabeth Wessels, who has attended Nevada Schools since she was a kindergartener, said it was a rewarding experience being involved as an officer with Key Club at a high level. “I made new friends and connections, grew in my public-speaking skills and learned to work with different types of leaders,” she said.
Wessels joined the Nevada High School Key Club when she was a freshman. “I thought it was a good way to volunteer in the community and grow in both leadership and communications skills.”
About becoming a district officer, she said that happened when she was nominated by a district governor at Linn-Marr High School, who she had worked with when doing things at the local level. “They have a pool of Key Club members and my name got thrown out,” she said. After going through a mini interview and sharing her thoughts on how she could be a benefit to the board, Wessels ended up being selected to be among the 12 board members/officers who served from May of 2017 to March of this year.
When asked what she believes she brought to the board of 12, Wessels gives a thoughtful answer. “I think I brought a good emotional support system, helping make sure no one got too angry with each other.” Wessels describes herself as being “very level-headed.”
Her year as an officer included several weekend three-day meetings around Iowa and one in Nebraska. The focus of the board was on recruiting more members for all the Key Clubs and helping with service ideas. The group also planned the district convention in March, which was held this year in Des Moines. Wessels said her main part of the planning was to help with leadership activities and workshops for those attending. One of the workshops was actually a fun one, teaching participants how to do magic tricks. It went with the theme of their annual meeting, “Abraca-service.”
She also helped plan a workshop on international partners. “We have several organizations we work with (around the world),” she said. The workshop looked at ways the Nebraska-Iowa Key Club District could help those organizations.
Wessels fit in all the work she had as a district officer for Key Club with a multitude of other responsibilities she had as a senior at Nevada High School, where during her four years, she’s also taken part in band, choir, basketball, RSVP (Raising Student Voices and Participation), National Honor Society and softball. She said being involved in a number of things has been part of why she enjoys school, and she advises younger students to do the same. “Get involved in as much as you can, because it really makes high school much more enjoyable,” she said. “Put yourself out there with your best character, because that will take you wherever you go in life.”
Where Wessels plans to go in life is first to the University of Northern Iowa, where she plans to major in biology education. “I have a real heart for education, because of really inspirational teachers I’ve had,” she said. That includes Mike Lawler, who teaches biology and anatomy/physiology. “He makes the classes challenging … but also gives a lot of hands-on activities that are fun to do.”
Wessels also derives an interest in teaching from her family. Her mom, Jennifer, is a Nevada High School math teacher, and she said a lot of other relatives on her mom’s side of the family have been teachers. “I’m the fifth generation on my mom’s side to go to UNI, too,” she noted.
Wessels is the daughter of Jennifer and Jason Wessels, and she has two siblings still in school at Nevada: Megan, a sophomore, and Ryan, a fifth-grader.
She said the approach of graduation this month is bittersweet. “I’m excited for the whole college experience, but I will miss my friends and family and the routine of coming to school here every day,” she said.
One more thing about Key Club, which has about 30 members at Nevada High School, and receives faculty support from Kim Huegerich and Kiwanis support from Judy Strohbehn, Wessels encourages younger students to get involved in the organization. And if the opportunity to become a local officer or district officer arises, “Say yes,” she encourages. “It’s a chance to take your Key Club skills to the next level.”