Vail Daily column: Teen has flourished as a student leader | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Teen has flourished as a student leader

Cameron Jarnot

Are leaders born or made?

I recently polled some colleagues and found that many believe it's a combination of the two. This mold fits our Youth Leader Spotlight — Battle Mountain High School junior and Vail Valley native Cameron Jarnot.

Having known both of Cameron's parents since "back in the day," I'm proud to say I've watched Cameron grow up since she was born. She is gracefully navigating this journey called youth and has quietly risen into her own leadership comfort zone as deftly as a lead dog commands the front of the husky pack during the Iditarod.

How did this come to be? Cameron shared with me that her mom is a major source of light for her.

“I believe it’s OK to push people. That means when you believe in something, even if it has not previously been accepted, it is OK to break those boundaries and try to change something. Whether that be something as simple as questioning your friend’s answer to a question or how your teacher graded your paper or something as big as reshaping the culture around an issue in your school, you can challenge people to reconsider how they are thinking about something.”Cameron JarnotStudent, Battle Mountain High School

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"I'm very inspired by my mom because she has given up so much time and energy for my brothers and me, but also for so many others," she said. "Seeing her change the lives of so many kids on my brother's club soccer team, with her AVID tutor group and in other crevices in the valley has been amazing. I hope that someday I'm able to affect as many people."

Today, Cameron is changing lives in her school's Best Buddies club, a new program that started a couple of years ago. "We help promote inclusion and acceptance as a norm at my school. It has been amazing to watch the changes in some of the kids, see relationships develop and attitudes improve throughout the school. Helping to get Best Buddies up and running has been something I am very proud of. The club has continued to grow and I have had the opportunity to watch people grow with it," Cameron shared.

Motivate, motivate, motivate

The Eagle River Youth Coalition has enjoyed watching Cameron flourish in the Youth Leaders Council since she joined as a sophomore. When I asked Cameron what is the toughest issue facing teens in our community, she didn't hesitate in identifying "lack of motivation." She believes teens could give more thought to their future and take advantage of opportunities that are given to them.

Cameron talks the talk as she has been learning to code during the past several summers when she goes away to what she refers to as "nerd camp." I call it "job security." Whether or not Cameron ends up coding for a career, she's added a life skill to her quiver that will integrate her future with many global opportunities. And if Cameron goes global, then she is sure to be in her element; her comfort with diverse environments not only stems from attending a dual language kindergarten through 12th-grade public schools, but also by the solid and accepting examples set by her parents.

'Relate to people in any situation'

Cameron's mom, Shelly, selflessly serves two prominent youth educational organizations — Walking Mountains Board of Directors and the Eagle County School's Board of Education. Cameron's dad, Chris, who grew up in the Eagle River Valley, is one of Vail Resorts' top executives who worked his way up through the ranks from an advertising internship he held 27 years ago.

"Living in a place with such diverse people, my parents have shown me that I need to be able to relate to a person in any situation or from any background, which has been and remains very important to me," Cameron said.

Armed with these skills and can-do attitude, Assistant Rev. Erik Williams, of the Eagle River Presbyterian Church, relies on Cameron to help him accomplish his annual mission trip goals. In fact, he plans the trips around Cameron's schedule because "she can do anything," Williams told me.

Acting as his co-leader on the past two mission trips to Native American Reservations in New Mexico and South Dakota, Cameron will also co-lead their July trip to Haiti where their team will build a new orphanage.

"People twice her age look to her for direction," beams Williams as he described how she organized three work groups and oversaw many aspects of the mission. "She is such an asset to my team," he said proudly and fondly remembers watching her blossom from a quiet young girl into an organizational powerhouse and hand tool expert.

How she finds the time, I do not know, but Cameron shared with me that club and high school athletics are one of her favorite things she's been involved with recently. Whether it's on the tennis court, the soccer pitch, the Nordic track or in the dance studio, she loves to play with kids from Vail Mountain School to Eagle Valley High School. "It's always fun to be part of unique group with a common goal." Break Boundaries

We ended our chat with my asking Cameron to share something that no one knows about her. She replied with a philosophical approach to life that one should adopt if they don't do this already. "I believe it's OK to push people. That means when you believe in something, even if it has not previously been accepted, it is OK to break those boundaries and try to change something. Whether that be something as simple as questioning your friend's answer to a question or how your teacher graded your paper or something as big as reshaping the culture around an issue in your school, you can challenge people to reconsider how they are thinking about something."

What wise thoughts for a 16-year-old. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and community contributions with us, Cameron.

We can't wait to see where your leadership guides you to land next.

Carol Johnson is the community engagement coordinator for the Eagle River Youth Coalition, a local nonprofit that offers and supports collaborative prevention programs and services. ERYC tackles three main areas that affect the development of teens and adolescent youth including: substance abuse prevention, emotional wellness and mental health promotion and academic achievement. ERYC offers various levels of parenting education and trainings for community members and oversees the Youth Leaders Council. For more information, call 970-949-9250 or visit eagleyouth.org.