Service Leadership Programs

Blog | Media | Shop

Do the duesKiwanis water bottle
Skip Navigation LinksDiscover > Magazine > Read the latest issue!


All posts

Core values

Key Club is in no way an “all-about-me” organization. You joined to help your school and to hone your leadership skills. When you focus on the Key Club core values of caring, leadership, inclusiveness and character building, you’ll discover you get something back too.

Story by Nicole Keller

A smile is the universal key for entry into any situation because people are hardwired to respond. Those are your mirror neurons at work, says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Los Angeles. When people see you smiling, their brains automatically imitate the smile and the caring feelings that come with it. Incorporate caring when you: 

  • Build smiles into club culture. Each time you see a fellow or potential member at school,  ash your pearly whites. Have a “terrible joke” contest or award the goo est, creepiest and most sincere grin to start your meetings. You’ll create a personal habit and build your club’s reputation for service with a smile. 
  • Start every project with teeth. Have you ever heard a cashier say, “Hi, what can I get for you?” while looking at his watch? Don’t do it! Before opening your car wash or kicking o the talent show, remind club members to greet donors and volunteers with a smile—and look them in the eye.


Key Club leaders help their fellow club members stay organized, motivated and engaged. They also benefit from making an impression on colleges, scholarship committees and employers looking for young people who aren’t afraid to step up to a challenge. MilitaryOneSource, a U.S. Department of Defense program, says leaders are resilient, con dent, communicate clearly and make better decisions. You’re already compassionate and contribute to your school. That’s why you joined Key Club! Incorporate leadership when you: 

  • Start small to make your world better. Pick up litter, hold doors for people, push in chairs when you leave a table and thank everyone who helps you. 
  • Work with younger kids at your school, religious organization or in a K-Kids or Builders Club. To younger kids, you’re already cool—a leader—and they might be a less threatening audience to start with than your peers.
  • Volunteer to solve a problem. That’s the first step to preparing for a local, district or international office.

You know how awful it feels to be left out. You can stop the hurt by being inclusive, starting with an open mind and a welcoming attitude. 
  • At home learn about your roots, take pride in your heritage and share your traditions and holidays with your friends. 
  • At school watch your language and everyone else’s. Avoid using stereotypes and challenge others when they do, especially in jokes or slurs, because silence equals agreement. Bring in a civic leader to talk about civil rights and share tips on  fighting prejudice. Encourage administrators to include diverse holidays on your school calendar too. 
  • In your Key Club learn about members’ backgrounds and share yours. Consider starting an exchange with a club in a different part of town.

“Character develops itself in the stream of life,” wrote the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The choices you make and the actions you take every day make up your character. 
  • Trustworthiness and responsibility. Your fellow Key Clubbers trust you to do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t take on responsibilities you can’t handle—or the bake sale won’t have enough brownies and your club won’t make your fundraising goals for The Eliminate Project. If you take on too much, be honest and find solutions instead of just bailing. Everyone will appreciate it—and be more willing to trust you again. 
  • Fairness. You’re not going to agree with everything said at your Key Club meeting— unless you’re the only one there. But all members deserve to be heard with respect, so consider every viewpoint when making decisions, especially those opinions counter to yours. When everyone has been treated fairly, buy-in for club projects will come more smoothly.

How do you practice the Key Club core values at your school? Let us know in the comments below.