By Timothy Cunning, 2019-20 district governor of the California-Nevada-Hawaii district

Having served as an advisor to Key Club in different capacities, Kiwanis advisor and region advisor, I have many wonderful memories and stories I can share about my years of service with our Key Club students.  Here are a few:  

There was one Key Club member who you could tell just wanted to be invisible.  Hair in her face covering her eyes, head down, no eye contact, etc.  Yet she came to all the meetings.  Then she attended Key Club district convention with her faculty advisors.  This is where I should mention that this Key Club was at a residential foster-care high school campus, and I was its Kiwanis advisor.  For these members to attend a multiday off-campus event like Key Club district convention was a big deal.  When I saw them arrive in the convention center, there was a student I didn’t recognize.  It turned out to be this Key Clubber.  All dressed up, hair nicely done, not a single strand covering her face, smiling from ear to ear, and looking directly at me.  She ran up to me, gave me a hug and thanked me for inviting her to district convention.  It was wonderful, though it was her faculty advisors who made her attendance possible.  After the hug, I turned around to see her faculty advisors; they were in tears.  I asked them what was wrong.  It was then that they shared with me this member’s story of physical abuse, which is why she was in the foster-care system.  They were in tears because, in light of her abuse, she doesn’t trust nor like any men, and yet she was so overcome with the experience of Key Club, being a member and attending district convention, that she gave a man a hug.  It was then that I was overcome.  The work we do as advisors matters.  

As Key Club region advisor, I worked with one member for two years in a row.  The first year, he served as his division’s lieutenant governor.  I was very impressed with his leadership and the support he received from his division’s members.  The second year, he served as the district’s Policy, International and Elections chair.  He served very well in that capacity also.  During that term, I found out that his dream college was the University of Southern California (USC).  He asked me if I would write him a letter of recommendation.  I did, and it was probably one of the best ones I’ve written.  I say that because his leadership and service in Key Club gave me so much material to write a glowing letter of recommendation.  I’ll never forget the Saturday morning I woke up to find a message from him telling me he was accepted at USC.  I was so happy for and proud of him that I cried tears of joy.  Again, the work we do matters.  

A few years ago, we had a team of five Key Club lieutenant governors in our region. They were a wonderful team.  It was a year in which we faced some significant challenges with the administrators of our Regional Training Conference venue.  We had advised our lieutenant governors what needed to be done and when it needed to be done to comply with the venue demands.  Nothing happened.  As advisors, this caused us some frustration.  Why were they not doing what needed to be done?  After marinating on this frustration for a while, it became clear to us as to why things weren’t getting done.  This team, all five of them, had the personality traits of collaborators.  It became incumbent upon us to identify this fact and to use tools and methods to get desired results out of collaborators.  All of this goes back to Key Leader training.  In this case, working with Key Club leaders teaches us how to be better advisors, leaders and Kiwanians ourselves.    

Every year, it is my pleasure to work with, advise and watch the personal growth of the Key Club members with whom I work.  Their development as members of the Kiwanis family places them head and shoulders above their high school peers, not only in preparation for college, but for all future endeavors.