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Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce; Junior Leadership Cape graduates 28

By Staff | Apr 7, 2017

The youth of today are tomorrow’s leaders, and more than two dozen of Cape Coral’s finest took one big step toward that.

Junior Leadership Cape Coral, sponsored by the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Coral Community Foundation and other private partners, held its graduation ceremony Tuesday at Gulf Coast Village.

Mike Quaintance, outgoing chairperson of the organization after running it since its inception in 1999, said this is a great way to give back to the community and allow them to understand the opportunities available for them when they return as adults.

“They get to see things most wouldn’t behind the scenes. It’s an opportunity for them when they go to college and put it on their resume to make them eligible for scholarships,” Quaintance said. “It also gives them a better chance of being accepted to better collages.”

Junior Leadership Cape Coral took these high schoolers on a 10-week journey to places they didn’t know existed or were open to them. They visited the Coast Guard base, City Hall, the courtrooms, local charities and local TV and radio stations.

They also had the opportunity to give $3,000 to local charities. The students, broken into four teams, took the stage to give presentations on the charities whose cause they took up during Philanthropy Day.

Special Populations and the Cape Coral Caring Center split the award.

The ceremony featured Elmer Tabor, a graduate of the Leadership Cape Coral program when it was introduced, as guest speaker, who asked random graduates what they believed leadership meant.

Tabor was somewhat surprised (and pleased) when the answers he got involved making friends, networking and what was going on in the city.

“I thought you were going to tell me how great Cape Coral was, but you tripped me up and stole all my thunder and said it was about people. Leadership is all about people,” Tabor said. “Treat people how you want to be treated and respect them. You don’t dictate to someone to do a job, you inspire them and mentor them.”

Tabor related a story about another original resident, Wayne Kirkwood, who came here in 1960 and went through the leadership program eight years ago. He said he couldn’t believe what was happening here.

The caliber of those who go through the program is impressive. Tabor said 75 percent of the applicants for the Cape Coral Mayor’s Scholarship Foundation were graduates of Junior Leadership.

Sarah Ceresa, of Island Coast, said she was selected by her counselors and thought it would be a great opportunity. She took full advantage.

“I’ve learned about the careers throughout the city and the different charities. I think I’ll probably volunteer more for the charities around town,” Cereca said.

Hector Carrasco, of Oasis High School, said he didn’t know the program existed until his junior year. It turned out to change his whole perspective on the city.

“It’s really opened my eyes to other organizations and job opportunities in Cape Coral that I had never known about,” Carrasco said. “I loved seeing what Cape Coral has to offer and the different charities.”

Shelby Seymour of North Fort Myers High said she was among the first to apply at the school and was glad she did.

“We learned a lot about the community that I didn’t know existed and job opportunities have come up,” Seymour said. “It was great to go around and experience all this.”

“Sometimes you hear about the negative things about our youth. This is an impressive group of folks dedicated to the community and committed to their education,” Quaintance said. “It’s refreshing to work with youth like that.”

The Class of 2017 is:

* Bailey Siner, Cape Coral High School;

* Calvin Hariprasad, Claire Driscoll, Haleight Hauck, Jesse Blow, Lauren Tracy, Sydney Sammons, Tyler Schuman, Ida Baker High School;

* Allison Santiago, Brandon Tijerina, Cicero McCarter IV, Sarah Ceresa, Island Coast;

* Kalianne Chief, Madeline Miller, Matt Lear, Xavier De Jesus, Mariner;

* Austin Wilson, Fa’Najae Gotay, Janet Oliver, Shelby Seymour, Shelton Sanfofer, North Fort Myers;

* Julianna Bissonnette, North Nicholas;

* Hector Carrasco, Isabelle Nghi, Chelsea Long, Lewis Evans, Sean Clay, Valeria Velazquez, Oasis.