PITTSBURG — Nearly 500 sixth graders filled Memorial Auditorium to celebrate their contributions to the Crawford County Youth Leadership Program Wednesday.

Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce created the program fifteen years ago to help instill leadership skills in children.

Frontenac Junior High, Girard Middle School, Northeast Elementary, Pittsburg Community Middle School, Saint Mary’s Elementary and Southeast Junior High sixth graders were visited monthly by community volunteers.

“The Chamber Foundation’s Crawford County Youth Leadership Program helps prepare the leaders of tomorrow,” Dani Gosch, special events director at the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a release. “We are proud to see the program celebrating its 15th year.”

The program focuses on role model interaction and developmental activities such as working as a team, understanding diversity, communicating effectively, resolving conflict, leading by example, and providing servant leadership.

Cox Charities selected the program in 2016 as a recipient of a Community Investment Grant, one of only 26 organizations in the state of Kansas to receive such a grant. The grant recipients are chosen by a panel of Cox employees who believe in the projects. 2018 marks the second year for Crawford County Youth Leadership to receive the grant.

At the ceremony, students were called up to the Memorial Auditorium stage to participate in several leadership-based exercises, including building a house of cards as a team.

Touted as the “memory guy,” Pittsburg State University Professor Mark Johnson conducted a exercise to show the audience everyone has a photographic memory. He lined up 15 students on stage — each given a card with a word on it — and asked what their card said and what their name was. Johnson told the audience a story using the words on the card.

“Leadership is about looking in the mirror, but for me, that mirror is a reflection of the things I’m passionate about and the things I’ve taught,” Johnson said. “The true measure of my success is not not what I’ve accomplished, but how many people have reflected that same passion in their lives.”

 — Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at bschmitz@morningsun.net.