Two Brookings sixth-grade boys from Azalea Middle School are headed to Washington, DC this summer. Conrad Watkins and R.E. Krebs were nominated by their pre-algebra teacher, Megan Strain, to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference.
The nomination is based on academic achievement and demonstrated leadership potential. Both boys are straight-A students, but Krebs felt they may have qualified for leadership potential because they “don’t act up in class — so she (Ms. Strain) said ‘These kids can do it,’ and now we’re doing it.”
“She called us leaders,” Watkins said. “These leaders can do it.”
They will join middle school students from around the country “for the educational experience of a lifetime,” according to a congratulatory letter. They will participate in the “Voices of Change” project, where they will create an action-oriented organization to create positive change at school and in their community.
During the 6-day conference, they will learn about leadership skills in the areas of communication, collaboration, time-management and self-management on the first day. On the second day, the conference focuses on goal setting, the American presidency, running for President and Presidential elections. They will then be introduced to the Voices of Change project and select a topic to research and eventually make a presentation.
They will participate in field studies by traveling to Harpers Ferry where they will visit the site of John Brown’s attack on slavery and learn about the Civil War choices and consequences. On another field day, the group will visit the U.S. Capitol, the National Museum of American History, the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial.
They will then meet living-legend Anthony Robles and hear from him about the power of hard work and strong belief in yourself. Robles was born with only one leg but went on to become a 3-time All-American wrestler and the 2011 NCAA National wrestling champion.
The two boys, who are best friends, will stay in dorms, which allows them to experience college life for the week.
“I think it will show us what college life is like, which we don’t know anything about,” Krebs said.
“It’s going to show us what we are going to do when we are older,” Watkins said.
The two boys still need to raise some money for the trip. Krebs will work at his parents’ restaurant, the Black Trumpet Bistro in Brookings.
“He waits tables there sometimes,” said his mother Kylie Krebs. “When he has to raise money, it’s really nice because he’s actually pretty good on the floor. It’s nice for the guests and nice for him.”
Watkins will be cutting lawns and doing other odd jobs while seeking sponsorships with his grandfather, Dale Poller.
Both boys participate in sports. Krebs plays baseball and Watkins plays basketball.
“I think it’s fun for them,” said Kylie Krebs. “It’s going to be challenging because they’re going to have some really cool stuff they are going to learn.”
“Just to get out there and know more things are out there besides Brookings — I love Brookings — but there’s a lot of opportunity out there, places to go see, and places to travel, and be able to get an education,” said Bianca Watkins, Carlton’s mom. “I want him to see the big, wide world that’s out there.”
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice also went to DC when he was in junior high school; however, neither of the boys aspire to become politicians. “Too much paperwork!” Krebs said.
Career aspirations for both boys are in the fields of science. Watkins wants to become a marine biologist. He plans to study in Hawaii because he likes surfing. Krebs wants to become a mechanical engineer “because I want to build stuff and make things,” he said. He plans to attend M.I.T.
“Students will return from (the conference) with enhanced skills and abilities, not only understanding the key concepts of leadership, but applying them in their everyday lives….These valuable skills will not only benefit the students during their academic studies but will also aid them when they eventually embark on their future careers,” says the information sheet about the conference.