Three Sparks students were among the scholarship recipients. Logan Wood from Spanish Springs High School, Tracey Rodriguez from Sparks High School and Aaron Benedetti from Reed High School joined McQueen High School’s Alexandria Hill and Reno High School’s Stefan Kaiser.
The 2008 Youth Leader Scholarship awards each recipient $2,000 to be used over four years of college. The scholarship was awarded to students who have shown excellences in academics as well as community service and leadership.
“We had to write four essays,” Rodriguez said. “One was ‘What is your definition of leadership?’ ”
“ 'What have you done for the community?' was another one,” Wood said.
While the essays might have been grueling to write, the students did not lack material to state their cases.
“I am student body president at Spanish Springs High School,” Wood said. “I have worked in community service such as Bikes For Tykes and Pennies For Polio.”
Wood explained that Pennies for Polio raised more than $1,500 for polio vaccinations. Wood is also a member of the Academic Olympics, captain of the cross-country team and a participant in Key Club and the Leadership Reno-Sparks program.
Wood plans on staying in Reno for college and staying just as busy.
“I plan on going to the University of Nevada, Reno,” Wood said, “and getting a dual major in veterinary science and agriculture business and a dual minor in political science and bio-chemistry.
“I plan on hopefully going to UC Davis and becoming a veterinarian,” Wood added. “And maybe working for the Department of Agriculture.”
Like Wood, Rodriguez has been at the helm of her school's leadership.
“I am student body president at Sparks High School,” Rodriguez said. “I have organized many community service projects at my school but one that I am most proud of is that we mentor sixth-graders after school and help them achieve their goals.”
Rodriguez explained that she has helped plan school events such as Every 15 Minutes, which depicts the consequences of poor choices made by students such as drinking and driving, as well as helping to raise money to support the Fernley flood victims.
Rodriguez is also a member of the Key Club, the Academic Olympics team and Teens Against Tobacco Use. In her free time, Rodriguez has managed to be a member of the Sparks High School varsity cheerleading squad, but her greatest achievement could be overcoming the odds to rank in her high school academic top 10.
“My parents are really excited,” Rodriguez said about being the first in her family to go to college. “I am also graduating second in my class.”
Rodriguez's long-term goals include becoming a pediatrician.
“I am currently undecided as to where I want to go,” Rodriguez said, but thinks she will go to UNR or UNLV. “I’m going to be majoring in nursing and hopefully from there go on to medical school.”
Benedetti has also achieved the grades to graduate third in his class, but unlike the other students his approach to leadership success did not include being student body president.
“Well, I do not hold any elected positions at Reed, but I am on the judicial board and we oversee the elections,” Benedetti said. “I’ve gone to Bud Beasley Elementary and Jerry Whitehead and mentored the first-graders. I’ve done volunteer work for Saint Mary's with the Take-Care Van and the Ronald McDonald House.”
Benedetti may not hold an elected position but he is president of the Science Club and his responsible for starting Reed’s recycling program. He writes for the school newspaper and is a member of the National Honor Society.
“I am most likely going to UNR,” Benedetti said. “I would like to major in English, but I am still unsure about that. I know an English major is pretty versatile because I am not extremely sure what I want to do after college. I might like to go into writing or something like that.”
Wood, Rodriguez and Benedetti said that they have all found their community service rewarding and that their hard work has paid off.
“I think people should try to be involved in their community,” Benedetti said.
“Just get involved,” Wood said. “Get involved in your school and you’ll get more out of it. And definitely get involved with your community.”
“Getting involved makes everything so much fun,” Rodriguez said. “Most of the time you’ll make a difference in the community.”