Opinion Leo: leadership, experience—and more

Each member of the Leo Club has a unique interpretation of what the club means to him/her.

For some, the Leo Club is a series of casual weekends by the beach where they can relax with friends and food. For others, the Leo Club is a serious commitment, a vocation where they get paid in community service hours instead of money. Regardless of how the Leo Program has affected him/her, each of its members would agree that it represents far more than just the three values its name denotes: leadership, experience, and opportunity.

The Leo Club goes one step beyond leadership by teaching its members tolerance. The word “leadership” implies that someone reigns superior over someone else, but in the Leo Club, this is not the case.

Though political rankings exist within the program, such as president and treasurer, all Leos treat each other with the same amount of respect. For instance, when a new Leo introduces them self at their first meeting, veteran Leos quickly respond with questions and support to show interest and ease the otherwise nerve-racking introductory process.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, newer Leos lend suggestions and encouragement to vice presidents when they are asked to lead meetings in the absence of their president. Bonded together like a family, the Leo Club resembles a community, much like the one they aim to serve.

In describing what each member gains from the Leos, experience would be a vague understatement. It is easy and superficial to merely acknowledge that the program offers experience to its members; what is important is to classify the types of experience Leos attain. Flipping patties, preparing buns, grilling bratwursts and serving lemonade are more than just examples of culinary experience.

Though it is undeniable that it takes a certain set of skills to properly prepare a hamburger—a skill that I am still refining—the true skill set lies in the mindset of the Leo who is operating the grill. Upon realizing that they are doing more than just feeding their community, Leos begin to acknowledge the most important value of their work: selflessness.

When Leos learn that their proceeds are donated to charity—more importantly, that they, the Leos themselves, retain the responsibility of dividing the money among the charities of their choice—they begin to grasp the various types of experience, from ethical to economic, that the program has to offer.

Not only is the Leo Club an opportunity for kids to gain leadership experience, but it is also a chance for kids to become cornerstones in their community.

By joining the Leo club, kids become more than members of their community, they become molders of their community. At first, it may seem surprising that such young citizens are granted the responsibility of such important decisions. However, after witnessing the diligence and dedication of the Leos, the community trusts its youth to organize its future.

This environment of trust and responsibility fosters mature Leos who are concerned with their community and its well being.

People often begin their Leo Club career with the intention of getting free food, shirts and community service hours, but somewhere along the way a transformation occurs.

By the end of their career, as they breech the threshold of adulthood, after organizing and participating in multiple projects, Leos contract Peter Pan Syndrome, wishing to preserve their youth forever because they know that the Leo Club is not meant for adults.

In analyzing the LEO acronym, it is important to remember that the values gleaned from the program by its members transcend those that its name implies.

What is important is not to consider revisions for the title of the program, but rather, to comprehend the significance of the program, and why so many kids join. The reasons for which kids become Leos are as unique as the contributions each Leo eventually makes to the club, evincing why the club is so diverse and dynamic.

The Seal Beach Leo Club provides an opportunity for youth between the ages of 12-18 years old to help the community while having fun.  The Leo motto, Leadership—Experience—Opportunity, is fulfilled as members work together in response to the needs of others.  For additional information, contact Leo Advisor Scott Newton @ 562 537-3955 / email: Scottnewton2@hotmail.com.

Justin Khalil was elected president of the Seal Beach Leos Club on Monday, April 18, and is a junior at Los Alamitos High School.