Students attend youth empowerment summit

Kern Valley High School students attended the KernYES! with Deanne Schulman (middle) of the Rotary Club. Photo Courtesy of Kat Barnum

Story By Catherine Stachowiak

Several Kern Valley High School students attended KernYES! a youth empowerment summit, Saturday March 16.

They applied to attend the event in November 2023, according to Deanne Shulman member of the Rotary Club of Kern River Valley, who provided transportation to the event. 

The six students were chosen above other applicants.  Shulman said, “We looked at potential and impact and these students rose to the top of the list.  Great students all of them.” 

Shulman said the Rotary Club annually sponsors the students, from funds the club raises, at no cost to the families. “We believe in the students of Kern Valley High School because they’re the future. They’re going to be leaders, whether it’s in government, the private sector, nonprofit sector, or raising kids. We just believe in you all.”

Kat Barnum, a Rotarian who chaperoned and volunteered at the event said she most appreciated seeing students who were initially “deer in headlights” at the beginning of day, later become more comfortable.  “As the day progressed, everybody had an opportunity to go out into the ethics, the diversity, the team building.  When we all got back together at the end of the evening, and everybody was at the dance, I feel like everybody had come out of their shell. They weren’t at all feeling uncomfortable going into it,” she said.  ”I just saw everybody have such a great time.”

Barnum said the students broke off into four different color groups with several different modules.  They learned teambuilding skills during an obstacle course.  Students heard motivational speakers who gave them tools in leadership.

The teens had the opportunity to meet other students from the valley and the overall Kern County area. 

 Karsyn Liske, a freshman who attended said, “I definitely gained more confidence to speak my voice within a team. Ethics really helped with that because I was defending my opinion when I picked a certain side.”  Liske thought debating was fun. She enjoyed socializing with students from other groups.

Freshman Elizabeth Davis said, “I definitely gained better ability to go and put myself out there, meet new people and make new friends.  It definitely changed my life.  I found the impact is I’m a lot more social and much more confident in what I’m doing.” 

Antonio Roman, freshman student said, “Sometimes you’ve got to be the one to become the leader in your group.  That’s what I took out of the whole experience.” He also enjoyed learning about the experiences of others and learned better planning skills. And he really enjoyed the meals. 

Mason Covey, local sophomore said that the experience reemphasized his already present ability to socialize.  “What really brought us together was our chant,” he said. “The chants were amazing.” Covey emerged as the leader of a team and spoke publicly.  Meeting other people brought him out of his comfort zone. 

Another sophomore Blake Baughman explained that the students learned respecting others opinions and being open to new ideas. They learned to debate being tolerant of and open to the views of others. “Other opinions are fine to have, even if they seem terrible,” he said. The student enjoyed most meeting people he normally would not encounter.  

All the students appreciated the motivational speakers who encouraged them to be wise about with whom they associate. The speakers motivated students to become confident about sorting out life decisions, trying new experiences, and working their way up the ladder.   

The students said they already recommend other classmates attend the next KernYES!