By Paul Palazzolo, Key Club District Administrator

I have three questions for you: 

  1. What’s so special about a high school student helping at a Special Olympics track race or visiting with a lonely, elderly resident in a nursing home?

  2. What’s so great about a high school student traveling to a major city for the first time and walking into a hotel ballroom filled with thousands of other high school students?

  3. What’s so important about a high school student learning how to encourage and lead their peers?

You would think these three very different questions would have three very different answers. But when I think about my years in high school, all three answers could be summed up in two words: Key Club! 

What’s so special?  

Joining Key Club gave me the opportunity to offer service and give back to those who needed someone to show caring and compassion. Whether we were visiting nursing home residents or doing yard work for families challenged by disabilities, we learned what it was like to serve beyond self and make a difference. 

What’s so great?  

Taking full advantage of the entire Key Club experience gave me the opportunity to have fun and make lifelong friends. Because I attended Key Club International conventions, I was with my Key Club family when I first encountered the world’s tallest building in Chicago, saw amazing fireworks at DisneyWorld and participated in a giant charity walk-a-thon in the streets of Fort Worth. These backdrops were where I built Key Club friendships that have lasted a lifetime. 

What’s so important?  

Skills I learned in Key Club helped me become the individual I am today. When I started high school, I wasn’t very outgoing or organized. Key Club gave me the opportunity to meet Kiwanis club members who made a difference in my life by building on the values I learned at home. Kiwanians taught me how to work effectively and strive to do my best. Particularly during the year that I served as a Key Club district governor, I discovered how to motivate peers and achieve goals through teamwork — all while having fun. That kind of experience can’t be duplicated in a classroom. 

Hundreds of thousands of influential people refer to Key Club as their laboratory of leadership. Count me in as one of them. With gratitude, I used what I learned in Key Club as a member of Kiwanis — and eventually applied those leadership skills as the 2009-10 president of Kiwanis International, as a local elected official and, most importantly, as the Kiwanis Club advisor to my Key Club for more than 30 years. 

While I have worked to make a difference for others, the Kiwanis family has made a most positive impact on me and my family. And it all started with two words in high school: Key Club.