LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Leadership Lexington Youth Program has presented its annual Distinguished Leader Award to junior Pragya Upreti of Lafayette High School, who figured out a lot about herself during the past eight months.
“The most meaningful aspect was being around an incredible group of young people that give me hope for change and a brighter future,” she said.
While COVID-19 restrictions limited the 2020-21 program, Pragya commended the organizing team for adjusting to a hybrid virtual setting, saying, “We got as good an experience as we could.”
Her favorite guest speaker was police Chief Lawrence Weathers. “The reason that session spoke so deeply to me is we are having the conversations we need to be having (in Lexington),” Pragya said, referring to racism and equity. “Leadership means recognizing you’re protecting your community, and that their voices, their experiences, their lives matter.”
LLYP encourages students to connect with community leaders and to explore local issues, post-secondary options, career fields, and business opportunities.
Peers nominate candidates for the Distinguished Leader Award, which goes to a class member who demonstrates strong principles, dedication to community service, creativity, exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, a keen understanding of community issues, and the potential to make a difference.
Pragya’s parents surprised her when they dropped in May 5 at the Junior Achievement facility to see her accept the class award.
Then, before the two dozen students received their plaques in a brief graduation ceremony, they heard from keynote speaker Judge Pamela Goodwine of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. “I refuse to let anyone or anything define my destiny. As a result, I am where I want to be,” she said – in pursuit of a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Goodwine, who by age 19 had lost her adoptive parents to lung cancer and murder, shared a powerful story – including her health struggles with Crohn’s disease and her rise through the judicial ranks despite the doubters.
“My parents taught me independence and that I could do and be anything I wanted. They taught me education was the key to success and there were no excuses,” Goodwine said.
“When you believe in yourself despite obstacles, then all things are possible. I don’t listen to negativity and neither should you,” she told the students, adding, “Never, ever lose sight of your dreams! Only you can define where you go from here.”