Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2005

Basehor-Linwood graduate honored for volunteer work

July 21, 2005

Basehor PRIDE officials credit the leadership of Nicole Swenson as the reason why its once dormant Youth PRIDE program has undergone a dramatic resurgence in recent years. Lately, others have started to take notice of Swenson's abilities as well.

This summer, area organizations have rewarded Swenson for her work in the community.

In June, the Zonta International Club, an organization that assists service and volunteer work in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, awarded Swenson with a scholarship based on her volunteering track record. And then, she was named leader of the year at the 2005 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum in Topeka.

Swenson, a 2004 graduate of Basehor-Linwood High School, is modest about the recognition. She said she volunteers to help others, not for any notoriety.

"I do it because it can make a difference for one other individual," said Swenson, quite simply.

Fortunately, others aren't so tight-lipped about her achievements. Swenson's mother, Stephanie, who sponsors the Youth PRIDE program, nominated Nicole for the leader of the year award.

"She has proven an absolute success as a leader," she wrote. "Nicole is very motivated and an empowering individual, but she is very modest and reserved in her achievements. What wonderful qualities."

Swenson's demeanor changed after she attended the Youth Leadership conference in 2003.

"She was empowered by what she learned," Stephanie wrote. "She was on fire. I remember the conversation on the way home from Topeka. She said, 'I can make a difference for my community and I know in my heart that I will succeed.' Well, I am here to tell you she did succeed and went way above what anyone could imagine."

When she returned from the 2003 conference, Nicole took the reins of revitalizing Youth PRIDE. Once the group had a solid foundation, it started monthly food drives, assisted in projects for school children, hosted events for senior citizens and participated in community beautification programs. Since its reorganization, Youth PRIDE has volunteered more than 1,300 hours in Basehor.

But, the work Swenson has completed for the community is only part of her heartwarming story. Since childhood, she has battled learning disabilities. The learning disabilities haven't stopped her, though.

Swenson, a 2004 graduate of BLHS, left the high school with a 3.3 grade-point averages. She is now a student at St. Mary University in Leavenworth, where she earned a 2.7 grade-point average her freshmen year.

Swenson, a published poet, said her goal is to one day become an author. She also plans to continue working in the community and for the betterment of disabled people.

She said her goals in life have always been the same.

"I can make a difference," she said.

Next month, she'll have another opportunity. She is slated to speak as a delegate at the Kansas Disability Caucus in Topeka.

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