Daniels Leadership Scholarship Winners

Hoosier Boys State June 2014 Daniels Leadership Scholarship Winner – Nicholas Wernert

Winning Essay: One of the biggest challenges facing my generation is the pervasive sense of cynicism and disillusionment fueling a general lack of interest in leadership at the state and national levels.  My cohort has been fed a steady diet of partisanship (exacerbated by irresponsible social media outlets), has consumed news from comedians viewed as more credible than mainstream journalists, and has experienced near-constant conflicts, both domestic and foreign, ranging from the events of 9/11 and the ensuing “War on Terror,” to the collapse of our financial systems and the subsequent “occupation” of Wall Street.  My generation also suffers from a sense of entitlement and instant gratification, many not knowing the value of work hard or the pride of reaching goals over time.  It’s easy to be a “distant expert,” hurling sarcastic comments into the blog-o-sphere or making snarky memes in hopes that they will “go viral,” assuming others will step forward and take the actions necessary to ignite change.
I believe we must each take ownership for breaking this cycle of cynicism and examine whether our words and actions are exacerbating the problem or contributing to the solution.  Starting n a small scale – whether through a local organization, church, or school – when everyone does little, it can come together to be something great, and individuals can see that their contributions make a different.  Whether volunteering at a recycling center, working on a Habitat for Humanity build, or organizing a holiday food drive, everyone can do something to turn things around.

Evansville, IN – September 2014 Daniels Leadership Scholarship Winner – Eyob Moges

Winning Essay: Simply put, Indiana’s future will be determined by the quality of its education system. There is no way around this point for education penetrates all aspects of life, from economics to ecology, politics to social psychology, health to humanitarianism. In everything that our next generation of Hoosier leaders hope to do and achieve, education offers the foundation that these dreams are built on, and as our foundation is frail, shaky, and uncertain, so too is our future. While it’s true there are other questions that our state’s leaders will face—including those of energy usage to bolster our states vitality, environmental stability to support the agrarian sector of our economy, or even how to free ourselves from evils such as poverty or drug use— we must understand that these are simply symptoms of a greater disease. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “If you look deep enough, education is the root 
of all problems,” and as such, we need to realize that unless we alleviate the cause, we will continue to suffer from its effects. As shown by today’s problems, the thinking of the past does not work, and unless our education system undergoes a radical reformation, our future leaders will continue to come together and struggle with these same issues. By investing in education, we will teach the next generation how to think critically, and equip them with the necessary tools to face tomorrow’s problems. Granted, working on education will require an investment into our future rather than our present, but if our goal is to truly and finally resolve our state’s problems, only education offers us the tools necessary. 
With all this being said, I feel like it is important to note the progress that our state has already made. Throughout its 2013 evaluation of national and state educational programs (Report Card on American Education) the American Legislative Exchange Council repeatedly and emphatically praised many aspects of Indiana’s educational reforms, specifically noting its efforts in: (1) reevaluating teacher and school accountability for student performance, (2) expanding school voucher programs, (3) supporting charter schools, and (4) creating transparency in reporting school performance. But, despite the progress made so far, it is important that our next generation continues in these efforts. Throughout history, a general trend occurs in which the action and innovation of one generation leads to the complacency and indolence of the next. The issue of remaining educationally alert must be at the forefront of Indiana’s future agenda; essentially, if we’re not moving forward, we might as well be moving backward. The world continues to change at an accelerated rate and the problems we face will change with it, and as such, our ability to cultivate an educated populace to deal with these issues is imperative to the future of our social institutions, our economy, and especially our democracy. To leave you with a quote by Benjamin Franklin which I believe perfectly encapsulates and summarizes this idea, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Butler University – Indianapolis, IN March 2015 Daniels Leadership Scholarship Winner – Ben McArdle

Winning Essay: In deciding what the biggest leadership challenge that my generation will face in the State of Indiana, I thought of such things as education, economics, and environmental sustainability. However, all of those subjects have one thing linking them: the start. Each one of these fields starts with my generation, the Hoosiers who are about to embark into adulthood. It doesn’t start with us because of the things that we might accomplish, but rather because of the things we can push our children to accomplish. The most important way for my generation to lead Indiana over the next twenty years is through parenting.

Think, what impacts people most in their life? The answer is the way they are brought up. Most people do the things that they do and the way they do them because it is the way their parents do it. How do you brush your teeth, mow the lawn, or pay your bills? What is your mindset as you strive to reach your goals? I’d bet that it’s exactly like that of your parents. We do things because our parents did them. Our parents were the first and largest influence in our lives. We look at our parents as examples our entire lives.

With this reasoning, it’s up to my generation to lead through parenting, particularly fathers. The current trend is for fathers to not be there for their children. More and more children are being raised by single mothers. This isn’t conducive to anything. Having been raised by a single mother, I know the extra tribulations inflicted on a one parent family. Money is harder to come by with one income instead of two. I was fortunate enough that my mother had a job that could support the two of us, but I have friends who have had to get a job after school to help support themselves or their family. And with more time spent at work comes less time spent on homework, leading to a drop in grades. Thus, our education system fails that particular individual, not because of what they did, nor because of what their mother did, but because the father of this child chose to be selfish and leave his family to fend for themselves. It is hard for children to value their education when they constantly have to worry about their situation at home.

Furthermore, the absence of a father in the household leaves children, particularly boys, without a central father figure. They don’t have someone to teach them how to be a good man. Many boys turn to gangs or other individuals of crime because these are the only older males who have ever even pretended to take interest in their life. This too can be avoided by the presence of a father in the household.

What fixes Indiana’s education system? How do you increase the supply of brilliant, home-grown Hoosier minds that are capable of changing the world and decrease the crime rate? The answer, quite simply, is parenting. Parents are the number one influence on an individual. They have the power to set their children down the right path for the rest of their life. If you want to really change the outlook of our state, it starts with how we, the millennials, impact our children’s lives. If we want to improve our state, it has to start from the beginning; it has to start with parenting.