2021 Excellence in Youth Leadership Winners Announced

May 13, 2021

The Excellence in Youth Leadership Program recognizes youth throughout Defiance County for their leadership skills. Anyone can nominate a youth to be recognized. All nominees are recognized and receive a certificate and gift bag. One student from each grade category is selected by a panel of volunteer judges from the community to receive a “Make a Difference Grant”. This grant gives students funds to spend to complete a random act of kindness, make a charitable donation to a cause important to them or start something good for the community.  We are pleased to announce this year’s winners:

Hannah Siler, K-2 Grade Category Winner, Holy Cross Catholic School


What Hannah Siler’s Nominee Had to say:

Hannah is the picture of a leader.  She uses the 7 Habits every day, all day.  She used them from the first day of school, and has developed a much deeper understanding of them since then.  She is Proactive, always willing to do what is right regardless of how others may think of her.  She goes above and beyond to help those who want help and those who are resistant to someone helping them.  Hannah is willing to take the risk that someone may respond in a negative way.  She finds her voice, and helps classmates that aren’t making good choices in a kind and polite way without being asked.  The other students respect her so much, that they change their behavior most of the time. 

Hannah Begins with the End in Mind when she moves through the list of things students are suppose to do every morning to practice skills and get ready for the day.  She doesn’t complain about what is expected, but moves through the list striving everyday to finish.  Hannah is so motivated that she will ask what she can do next.  That is pretty amazing for such a young person.  Her example has a positive effect on her classmates.  She inspires them to do the same.  They have a friendly competition that never takes a negative turn, but makes the tasks fun for them.

Hannah is also wonderful at Putting First Things First.  Children this age tend to think of themselves first.  Not Hannah, she tends to sees what is important, and stays on track.  She asks questions and gives information relevant to the topic being discussed.  She has developed the ability to focus on the topic we are learning, and save other things she wants to share with the class until the appropriate time. 

Hannah is so good at Thinking Win-Win.  She is always willing to try to understand others point of view, even if it is not her own.  I have never heard her argue with another student.  She is eager to work things out when there is a conflict.  She doesn’t need an adult to step in she is willing to compromise if it helps solve a conflict.

Hannah is a great listener.  She is always willing to Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.  She is able to do this in casual conversation, during a conflict, or during class.

She consistently able to show love and kindness to others.

Hannah is already to Synergize at anytime.  She encourages others to participate in the group.  She is not afraid to tell her ideas and consider, use, or help adapt any ideas presented by others.  She handles herself in a group situation in a very mature way.

Hannah is someone who enjoys other people very much.  She always shows love and kindness to others.  She always has classmates laughing and having fun.  She truly cares for  others around her.  She is always willing to help whenever needed.

Hannah is such a remarkable young lady.  She possesses so many qualities of a great leader.  She has so much to offer anyone that enters her life.  She is a ray of sunshine in our class.  She is a true follower of Jesus. 



Natalie Kost, 3-5 Grade Category Winner, Defiance Elementary

What Natalie Kost’s nominators (there were two) had to say:

Natalie Kost exemplifies what it means to be a leader!  She has a gift for seeing a need and filling it!   I often witness her demonstrating “Think Win Win” through problem solving and “Seek to Understand, then be Understood” through filling needs!  A few months ago, she amd her sister, Naomi expressed an idea of some new equipment for Defiance Elementary K-2 playground. Natalie and Naomi followed through with the guidance counselor to synergize ideas and make a plan.  That plan is fully funded and will be installed this July!  Natalie also recognized the need of a student in her classroom.  The student had broken his Chromebook and didnt have insurance on the device.  She brought the idea of taking care of the necessary fees to another student and together they anonymously were able to pay for insurance on his device for the rest of the school year! I nominate Natalie because she is filled with joy in serving others and inspires others to do the same!


Natalie and Naomi are very proactive girls. They are willing to look at the big picture and see what is in the best interest of everyone. The girls recently worked to find a way to incorporate new play ground equipment for DES K-2 play ground. Natalie a current 5th grader wanted to use the remaining funds that her class had raised for a zipline on the 3-5 playground but she wanted her sister Naomi in 1st grade to be a part of this  and help the younger children at DES. The girls brain stormed and worked with me in finding something all K-2 grades could use and also be healthy and active. They became aware of the budgeting and space limitations. They were very helpful in this ongoing journey and Natalie has even volunteered to help paint a activity trail  that will go along with the  new playgorund equipment in the summer with her youth group she is a part of. I would recommend both girls for this award to reinforce the win -win choices they have made. 


Lukas Bennett, 6-8 Grade Category Winner, Tinora Junior High

What Lukas Bennett’s nominator had to say:

I am proud to nominate Lukas Bennett for the Excellence in Youth Leadership Award.  He is one of the most responsible students that I have encountered in over twenty years of teaching. Lukas strives for perfection and does not settle for less than his best.

Lukas is well aware that he is in charge of what happens throughout the school day. He knows exactly what he has to do and when. He is very oriented to schedules and abiding by them. This carries over into his work. His work is done with precision and ahead of schedule. He does not procrastinate, but rather dives head first into assignments.

Lukas is also very conscientious about his work and its quality. Lukas ensures that his work is done before he engages in extra activities. Some of those activities are mandatory and therefore, he does participate, but again, once they are over, he is back at his work.

Lukas is extremely helpful and a leader in the classroom. Lukas will go above and beyond to help other students, without even being asked to. He will help others even when they end up getting a better score, because he has learned from his mistakes and is able to help someone else. I am proud to say that I have a lot of trust in Lukas. He has proven that when I ask him to do something, he will and is not sneaky or taking the opportunity to do something he is not supposed to.

Lukas is a very patient listener. He will wait for directions and instructions and then begin working. Lukas is quick to ask questions and not embarrassed to do so. Often, Lukas already knows the answer to his question, but again, takes ownership of his question and is not afraid to speak up and ask for help.

HCCS Students Honored as 2021 Excellence in Youth Leadership NomineesHCCS is named First Place for the BEST PREK in he 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards