Horizon Honors students

Horizon Honors students who were honored for community service by the district Key Club are, from left, Alexandra Chamoun, 17, Alexis Blasko, 18, Marisa Blasko, 15, and Daniel Grosjean, 15. With them is their advisor, Mindy Duet.

As a branch of Kiwanis International, Key Clubs are a vital part of that organization’s efforts to give back, engaging high school students in a variety of service projects.

This month, Key Club members and a mentor in Ahwatukee earned honors for their involvement in the community.

Horizon Honors Secondary School’s Key Club was awarded the highest honor at the SouthWest District Convention and four members earned individual awards for their community service.

Meanwhile, Ahwatukee Realtor and Kiwanis Club member Donna Leeds earned the 2020-2021 Outstanding Kiwanis Advisor Award by the SouthWest District  Key Club International, which consists of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of California and Texas. 

Horizon Honors students who were honored for community service included their Key Club President Alexis Blasko, her sister Marissa Blasko, Alexandra Charmoun and Daniel Grosjean. Marissa was honored for devoting 100 hours to community service in a year and the other three students 150 hours of service in a year.

There were 17 different divisions representing 117 high schools being judged.

Alexis and Horizon Honors Key Club advisor Mindy Duet both nominated Leeds for her award.

“From her motivated spirit, infectious positivity and radiating kindness, Miss Donna has touched the lives of so many children,” Alexis wrote.

Duet, a fellow Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club member, also nominated Leeds, writing, “Donna has a passion for working with and for children, she guides them with great mentoring skills and she is their biggest cheerleader.” 

Added nominee MacKenna Ramsey “Overall, Miss Donna has been a valuable and loved member of our Key Club here at Horizon Honors, and deserves the honor of Outstanding Kiwanis Advisor.”

The Horizon Honors club received the Distinguished-Diamond Level Award for participating in a variety of activities and the hours of community service.

“Horizon Honors Key Club shined and racked up the most points of all other schools participating,” Duet said.

Mindy Duet, who also is Horizon Honors’ media center coordinator, noted, “Not only did the District recognize these awesome students and clubs but they also offered some informative and engaging workshops to grow our leaders.

Workshops ranged from college survival, stress management, public speaking, conflict management, fundraising, UNICEF awareness, social media and Key Club branding. They also participated in some fun games and had social meet and greets, with student leaders leading the entire program.  

“Our Key Club District is also holding elections for their student board of trustees.  Our students have had the opportunity to get to know these teens, watch them lead,” Duet said.

“It has been an unprecedented year, with plenty of obstacles for all of us, but even during this Zoom event I could see, feel and hear the excitement, tears and enthusiasm from and for all. What a great opportunity our students have experienced.”

Key Club is the oldest and largest student-led service organization for high school students. Key Club International is an international service organization, located in 40 countries. Its goal is to encourage leadership through serving others.  Kiwanis is the adult version of Key Club, it too is an international service led organization and sponsors our Key Club.  

Duet also praised Leeds’ involvement as a liaison between the Key Club and the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club.

Leeds, Ahwatukee office manager for West USA Realty, Inc., helped the club make sleeping mats for homeless people with “plarn,” or plastic yarn among numerous other activities, according to Duet.

“Whether it is shopping for back to school with disadvantaged youth, making hundreds of PB&J sandwiches or preparing for a baby shower for foster youth, Donna will show up with her bright smile, positive attitude and we will have fun,” Duet said, noting even COVID restrictions couldn’t stop her.

“She participates by getting the community involved with collecting, contributing, delivering and helping,” Duet said. “Donna reached out to her colleagues and collected more grocery bags than I could have imagined. Now we have people in the community helping cut strips, making plarn and crocheting, for our Plarn Mats for the Homeless Project.

 When I showed up to pick up the bags back from her office, she took one of the plarn balls out of the collection bin, it rolled across the corridor of her office building and it unraveled like a giant ball of yarn. People stopped and wondered what in the world we were doing.

“When they find out what we are making, out of what looks like trash, they want to help. Now we have several new “plarn” makers.”

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