Fifteen-year-old Olivia Pelker, Leavenworth High School junior, works on a painting Aug. 4 at her home. Pelker was one of six high school students from Harrold Youth Center who participated July 24 in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Keystone Conference, which was conducted virtually this year because of COVID-19 precautions. Pelker said the conference inspired her to try painting as a new hobby. Submitted photo

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Six high school students from Harrold Youth Center participated in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Keystone Conference July 24. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the conference that is normally held in Washington, D.C., was conducted virtually.

Participants included 15-year-old Olivia Pelker, a Leavenworth High School junior, and 14-year-old Adrian Torres, a freshman at Patton Junior High School.

The three-hour conference was live streamed with more than 1,000 viewers and featured trivia games, opportunities to chat with other youth and several guest speakers.

“(Guest speakers) had topics like wellness or what to do during this time (of COVID-19) and how to stay safe and just a lot of inspiring words that I’m sure a lot of people needed to hear,” Pelker said.

One suggestion was picking up new hobbies, something Pelker and Torres both did.
“Since the conference, I have picked up painting,” Pelker said. “That definitely gives a good distraction and changes my perspective of how this is such a horrible situation, but now we have a chance to learn new things.

“It’s definitely a new thing, and I’m not too good at it just yet, but I’m working on it,” she said.

“I’ve always been a pretty artistic kind of person. I used to love my old art class, and I haven’t been able to get into another one, so I just do everything I can from home.”

Torres said his new hobby has required discipline.

“I’ve been teaching myself how to play some songs off the internet on the guitar,” Torres said. “It took me a long time to not feel pain when I play.”

Not only was coping with COVID-19 a regular topic during the conference, so was leadership.
“Leadership is important because, without leaders, people would be nowhere,” Pelker said. “We wouldn’t be as far as we are if we didn’t have leaders that took the time to stand out and guide the rest of us, so I try to be a leader as much as I can.”

Torres said being a leader is about helping others, and that the conference is helpful for military kids.

“A lot of times people make bad mistakes, and if you can help them not make bad mistakes, that’s a good thing,” he said. “(The conference) can help (military kids) feel not so alone because I know moving and stuff isn’t very fun.

“I think if you can communicate with other people and talk to them about your problems that they might be able to relate to, that would be nice,” he said. “I think it’d be really helpful.”


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