Jonah Armstrong, Bryson Ginn, and McKenlee Wescott singled out for leadership

Taft Union High School is proud to announce that three students were chosen for the Youth Leadership Award by the Taft Chamber of Commerce this year. Jonah Armstrong, Bryson Ginn, and McKenlee Wescott were all chosen for their leadership in the community.

“All three students are very deserving and demonstrate what it means to be a Wildcat. They serve others, take on leadership roles, and manage challenging responsibilities.” said Jacquelyn White, who teaches and advises both Armstrong and Wescott. Armstrong is the Chief Photographer of both the Gusher and Derrick and Wescott is the News Editor for the Gusher and Editor-in-Chief of the Derrick. “Jonah Armstrong has been an important part of the rebuilding process for our Gusher. He has taken his role as a journalist seriously and found his passion for photography. He has used this to create and establish a place, once again, for journalism at Taft Union High School. As the Chief Photographer of both the Gusher and the Derrick, he makes sure that everyone has a place in our history and that we always remember where we came from and who were are.”

Armstrong’s mother, Janet Anderson-Rubio, and step-father or “Pop”, Anthony Fontes Rubio, have both had a great influence on his life, “making me the person I am today.” Both have a strong work ethic that resonates in his work. After high school, Armstrong plans to attend Taft College to continue to perfect his skills as a professional photographer. Then, he plans to transfer to a four-year college where he can major in Journalism, Media, Photography, or Photojournalism. When asked about why he thinks he is being honored, he attributes the recognition, “Most likely to my job as a journalist and as a photographer for the Gusher and Derrick. The professions I’m currently learning have put me in a position to where I can interact with students and staff more closely. I get around a lot; students know me because I’m always with a camera taking pictures. Whether it be from interviewing or taking photos of students and staff, it gets me involved with the school and gives me a deeper connection with who we are and what we are about. From riding with our sports teams to their games and getting home close to midnight and going to board meetings learning first-hand how the decisions at our school are made, it’s a lot of work.”

Jonah Armstrong believes that, “...involving yourself and engaging in school activities and going around just getting to know people by making connections and relationships,” is what helps our community grow and improve. “Being kind is the biggest factor to improving, not only our school, but our home.” Armstrong is humbled by the award. He “feels pretty good about it.” He commented, “I used to be the kid no one really looked at, but now I see that my years of hard work and patience have paid off--especially the work I’ve done last year and this school year as I work hours to perfect this year’s Derrick and Gusher.

“McKenlee Wescott is another outstanding individual I have the pleasure to work with every day. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Derrick and a section editor for the Gusher. Without her, there is no way I would survive as a new adviser for a yearbook. It is so much more work than anyone realizes. She keeps things organized and makes sure things stay on track. McKenlee takes the time to think about others. She wants this year’s yearbook to be amazing and she works tirelessly to make that happen. Her standards are high and I love that about her. She does so much for the school and the community and it will truly show when everyone sees the 2019 Derrick in May.” commented Jacquelyn White.

Tom White, TUHS CTEC Law Pathway Instructor, stated, “If I were asked who should be receiving an award for student leadership, the answer would be McKenlee without question. This young lady is a proven leader. She has been my Captain of my interns for a year now and has been the best Captain I have had by far. She keeps track of meetings I have to attend, appointments with the community I completely forget and is not afraid to let me know I am slacking. She has been responsible for organizing our team, without much help from me, to make sure we have all the bases covered for each event. Her leadership abilities don’t end with the set up. When at the event, I let her know what we need and where and then I am able to focus on other tasks at the event...I am very proud of McKenlee and this award is very much deserved. I measure how good my leadership is when I have to replace the senior with a new face. This time, I am having a hard time finding someone to fill the role and the footprint she has made on my program.”

Bryson Ginn is the A.S.B. President this year. A.S.B. Adviser Maria Alvarez said, “Bryson is positive and full of energy. He tries very hard to be fair when making a decision. He gets along very well with students and staff.” As A.S.B. President, Bryson started preparations for the school year over the summer. He was in charge of running the “Week of Welcome,” a TUHS tradition that started last year and kicked off the school year with two days of information and welcoming activities. Ginn was in charge of the Back-to-School Dance and continues planning and running rallies for the students. He created committees to do different tasks and he was in charge of the “Trunk-or-Treat” committee this year. He helps with things like the Christmas Parade float (A.S.B took third place). Ginn is thinking ahead to next year and training other students to fill his position once he graduates in June.

Bryson Ginn is son of Jeff and Stefany Ginn. Ginn said, “I am very excited being given this award and I am very grateful for our generous community who is always willing to help.” After high school, Ginn plans to attend college to complete a business degree and a minor in Video Productions. He plans to play college football and obtain a real estate license to become a real estate agent after graduation.

When Ginn found out he would be honored by the Chamber of Commerce, he said, “I did not expect it at all. It’s a privilege because there are a lot of youth in this town and it is nice to be recognized.” Ginn’s senior project was to support Honor Flight. As part of the Chamber events at the 4th of July and a fall fundraiser with Flacos Tacos, Oil Tech, and the Midway Sunset Lions Club, he helped raise money for Veterans to visit Washington, D.C.. Julie Ortlieb and Michael Goodwin developed the idea a few years ago to raise money to send a local Veteran on the Honor Flight. With the help of Ginn and other students, local service clubs, Flacos Tacos, and Oil Tech, the senior project was a success. Ginn said, “ I worked with them quite a bit, and that’s probably how I got on their ‘radar’....I didn’t know they did a youth award. I knew about the awards for the businesses, but not for youth.”

Ginn appreciates our community and enjoys giving back. He said, “People can have a major effect on the community just by volunteering and helping better our town. I’ve lived in Taft my whole life and I’ve loved every single day. Taft has given me so many opportunities that I never would have got anywhere else. I feel so blessed to have been given everything I have achieved in my high school years.”

Wescott was equally surprised when Dr. Orrin came into class with balloons to announce her award. “To be honest, I did not expect to be chosen for this honor. I am very grateful to be able to accept such an award from my community. I would have never imagined getting recognized for something so rewarding.” She enjoys being a part of the Law Enforcement program at TUHS CTEC. She finds “helping out my community to be the most rewarding. I also find learning how to deal with difficult situations and being given the chance to make new relationships very rewarding.”

Wescott balances multiple responsibilities as a community member and student. “I am captain of the leadership program. As captain, I am responsible for organizing events, partaking in community service, and advancing the program. I am also a member of the CTEC Law Enforcement board. As a member of the board, I help with establishing new techniques to advance the program. I also work closely with the Army, CHP, Taft Chamber of Commerce, and Taft Correctional Institution. In yearbook, I am Editor-in-Chief. As EIC, I am in charge of leading the yearbook staff. I help edit, create, and design. I also make sure the yearbook is running smoothly and making our deadlines. As news editor in journalism, I am in charge of editing every news story before it goes into the Gusher. I also assist with coverage and story ideas as well as writing my own stories.”

McKenlee Wescott is the daughter of John and Alison Wescott. After high school, she plans to attend Taft College to study Criminal Justice. After junior college, she plans to transfer to continue her studies. When asked how receiving this award makes her feel, she responded, “I would like to say that I am very thankful to be able to help my community. I would like to thank my family for being so supportive with all the activities I am involved in, Jacquelyn White for showing me the ways to be a great writer, and Tommy White for teaching me to always push myself to be 100%. Receiving this award makes me feel very grateful to be a part of such an amazing community.”

The students will be honored by the Taft Chamber of Commerce at the Taft District Chamber of Commerce Installation and Awards Ceremony on Thurs. Jan. 31.