WEST ALEXANDRIA – A crowd of over 350 people turned out for this year’s Rotary Honors Scholars Banquet, held at Twin Valley Community Local Schools on Thursday, April 27.
Sponsored annually the Eaton Rotary Club, this event recognizes sophomore, junior and senior students in the top 5 percent academically at each of Preble County’s five high schools. Students from Eaton, National Trail, Preble Shawnee, Tri-County North and Twin Valley South High Schools are honored each year. The evening includes a catered meal for family and friends, and a ceremony featuring a keynote speaker who has graduated from a Preble County school themselves.
Preble County Educational Service Center Superintendent Shawn Hoff introduced Alexa Little, the special guest speaker for this year’s event.
“Alexa Little is a 2012 graduate of National Trail High School, and a 2015 graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in marketing,” Hoff noted. “She began her career in admissions and marketing for a nursing facility before taking the role as the Preble County Director for United Way. Alexa then moved into the role of program coordinator for Thrive Therapeutics, overseeing the operations of my Neighbor’s House Recovery Center. Alexa is also the Executive Director of the Preble County Youth Foundation and a proud mother of two.”
“As I spent time thinking about what I wanted to share with you all, I tried to think back and recall what the guest speaker said when I was in your seat just over a decade ago. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you,” Little told the students. “You might not remember a lot of what I’m going to tell him tonight. But if I can leave you with one thing and you remember nothing else, I want you to know that it’s okay to not have it all figured out.
“Because I remember sitting in your seat and thinking that I did in fact have it all figured out. I had made a plan. I had goals and nothing was going to stop me. Sounds good, right? But I was missing a crucial piece. That was a growth mindset. Instead, I had a fixed mindset. I believed that I already knew and had everything in me that I needed to succeed.
“I was smart, organized, driven, but as life would have it, very little went according to plan. And things weren’t happening in the sequence and the timeline that I planned for. My plan unraveled and now did not look like I thought it would and didn’t look like any of the people around me.”
“And I felt like I was failing,” Little continued. “Doubt and disappointment consumed me. And to be honest, I was really scared. I had no choice but to loosen my grip, trying to control everything that happened to me in my life and just keep moving forward. And I learned in the hardest way possible that sometimes the only option is to just keep moving forward, sometimes with no plan.
“Now I can sit back and reflect on that time and be immensely grateful for those hardships. Because without them I may remember I adopted a growth mindset, and I wasn’t terrified of the unknown. The mindset that said no matter what comes my way, I can persevere. I can figure it out. I can learn and do new things outside of my comfort zone,” Little said.
“Had I had this mindset earlier in life, I could have maybe enjoyed those stages in my life and been more present in them. Instead, I was in such a hurry to get to the next step. Thinking the next step of my journey wouldn’t be full of uncertainties and that maybe the next time would go as planned if I could just get there,” she continued. “I rushed through and I missed out on fully experiencing where I was currently and all that stage of life had to offer and you know what I found? That every step is going to come with hardships and uncertainties. And none of us will ever have it all figured out.
“But the good news is, every stage comes with happy times. Small wins worth celebrating growth and new experiences. High school is a small chapter of your life. I have not forgotten how hard those years were. And I’m sure all of you have faced something really challenging during your high school career. Things that feel like they will never get better or that they’re going to matter forever. Rumors, bullies, breakups, fights with your friends, a bad grade, or rejection letter to your top school.”
“The truth is, a lot of that won’t matter, one, five and 10 years from now,” Little said. “So, if you’re struggling, I want you to just keep going. You are all here tonight because you excel academically and while that is important, excelling morally is most important. Your grades and your test scores carry you only so far right? But who you are and the mindset that you have takes you the rest of the way. Be kind to yourself and to others. Take care of your mental and physical health and leave people and places better than you found them. You never know what battle someone is fighting. But I promise you, everyone is going through something, and you will never regret being kind.
“I will leave you with this famous quote: ‘It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.’ That’s so true. And I wish you all the best on each of yours,” Little concluded.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.