Students Celebrate Influencers

For most tech-savvy teens, the word “influencer” brings to mind YouTube stars. Quest Forward Academy Omaha students thought along these lines for a final project that celebrates the people in their lives whose examples, support, or guidance has impacted them. The Influencer Recognition Project exemplifies the value of collaboration, and, on June 6th, culminated with an inaugural Influencer Recognition Ceremony. The ceremony celebrated the relationships students have made outside the Academy that have inspired them to always be learning and curious, and to embrace the Essential Habit “Live an Integrated Life.”

To live an integrated life, one must rely upon the ability to draw on experiences from one area of life to help with another. Field trips, offsite music classes at the Omaha Conservatory of Music, and science labs in Bellevue University’s state-of-the art facilities are just a few of the opportunities that provide a connection with Quest Forward Academy students to the world around them. Still, as mentors will tell you, it’s hard to teach students to live an integrated life, because this particular habit usually occurs outside the classroom. The Influencer Recognition Ceremony gave students an opportunity to thank the amazing people in their lives who help them bring the habits they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives.

Jack and his Influencer, Ed

Here is the complete list of the nominated Influencers:

  • Jennie Maddock, nominated by student Estacy
  • Ed Heller, nominated by student Jack
  • Sandra Sykora, nominated by student Libby
  • Matt Delaney, nominated by student Leah
  • Mr. Clark, nominated by student Alejandra
  • Kayley Slack, nominated by student Bailee
  • Phil Meggers, nominated by student Robert
  • Jake Hanson, nominated by student Aaron
  • Bernie Lowhouse, nominated by student Andrew
  • Cathy Banks, nominated by student McKinley
  • Tyler Pearson, nominated by student Khia
  • Mr. Plugge, nominated by student Fiona
  • Maria Vazquez, nominated by student Samantha
  • Dr. Angela Washington, nominated by student Keyaira
  • Elizabeth Grazier, nominated by student Rachel
  • Gabrielle Cardenas, nominated by student Annel
  • Wendy Roberts, nominated by student Natalia
  • Grandma, nominated by student Josiah
  • Brian Wilson, nominated by student Joshua
  • Maribeth Talbot, nominated by student Kejuan
  • Patrick Swartz, nominated by student Erich
  • Carl Hubbert, nominated by student Daniel
  • Patty Collins, nominated by student Julian

From personal trainers to neighbors, the guest list was diverse. Keyaira, an Exploration Phase student, was especially touched that her Influencer took time away from her busy schedule to attend the ceremony. Keyaira wasn’t too surprised, though, because Dr. Angela Washington has a long history of showing up to support Keyaira in her everyday life. As the pastor at Keyaira’s church, Dr. Washington has been a positive force in Keyaira’s life for the past six years. Dr. Washington’s uplifting and relatable sermons, her insistence that Keyaira join the youth group, and her warm invitations to participate and volunteer at church events have contributed to Keyaira’s confidence, faith, and strong sense of community.

Keyaira and her Influencer, Dr. Washington

Dr. Washington’s unwavering presence in Keyaira’s life was especially meaningful earlier this year, as she was honored to preach at Keyaira’s father’s funeral. Keyaira shared that Dr. Washington knew her father well, and she spoke the right words. Keyaira smiled as she recounted what Dr. Washington said when she invited her to the ceremony: “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

At the ceremony, which was led by Academy Director Mark Smith, students and their nominees sat side by side (and in some cases hand-in-hand). Mark thanked the nominees for the positive impact they had on the lives of Academy students. Mark surmised that just as the Influencers have probably heard countless stories about the awesome activities students are participating in at the Academy, he and the mentors have been bombarded all year about the incredible things they are doing outside of school in the gym, at church, and on the stage.

Rachel and her Influencer, Elizabeth

Applause filled the room as Mark read aloud the list of nominees. He gave students a moment to present each Influencer with a Quest Forward Academy mug and plaque, as well as personal, heartfelt letters. A reception followed, during which the Influencers loved seeing students’ work on the Academy walls, and a few commented that the classrooms must be “where the magic happens.” As Mark was quick to point out, thanks to their support of Academy students after school, magic happens always and everywhere.

Everyone from Quest Forward Academy Omaha wishes to thank the amazing people in our students’ lives for making magic happen all around.


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