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School leaders connect at Casa Grande

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They yelled, they cheered, they sang, they danced, they shared and a few even shed a tear at the Making Connections conference hosted by Casa Grande High School on Monday.

Leadership clubs from 14 North Bay high schools filled the Casa gym for fellowship, to be inspired and learn from one another.

For the students, “fellowship” was teen style, with school spirit, loud competition, music and much laughter.

“It’s been great so far,” said Kalia Aiwohi co-president of the host Casa Grande Leadership club during a break in the program. “We wanted to make sure there was a lot of spirit and that the students could share ideas.”

They reached their goals.

“This is awesome. It is great for community building,” said Max Bautista, a junior from Roseland University Prep. “We’re hoping to get ideas on how to create better spirit at our own schools. Each school can gain ideas from other schools.”

Members of a strong contingent of leaders from Petaluma High School found themselves inspired in the home gym of their rivals.

“It helps bond better with kids from other schools,” said Leta Johnson. “It was really motivational.”

“The story the speaker told was amazing. It reminded us that you have to stick to your dream, no matter what,” explained Petaluma High’s Ryan Giacomini.

The speaker was Alexa Score, who never let coming from a very small town in Minnesota, growing up with a father who was her single parent, living in a part of the country where it is winter nine months a year or having a rare and potentially fatal form of leukemia stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a professional wakeboarder.

At 28, she has retired from active wakeboard competition and moved into a successful career as a spokesperson, model, author and television personality.

She has appeared in numerous print and video ads; appeared on many television venues including MTV, ESPN and the Travel Channel and even appeared in a feature movie, “The Two Headed Shark.” Her story has been featured in many print publications and been told in a PBS TV documentary, “Adventure Unknown.”

From a school-spirited yell-off, the students listened voicelessly as she described what it was like to receive what very well could have been a death prognosis.

She told what it was like to carry the hurt and worry herself because her friends were too afraid to provide the comfort she so badly needed.

“I realized my friends were just as scared as I was,” she said, adding, “maybe leadership is being a friend when someone really needs a friend.”

She talked about the dark days when she hurt so bad and had so little strength she couldn’t roll over to get out of bed.

Score agreed to try an experimental drug instead of traditional chemotherapy. It worked.

So far, the drug has helped her gradually improve, but she will always carry the cancer and always require daily doses of the drug.

Far from stopping her from her dream, when Score began to feel better she began to pursue it with even more vigor.

“I became a wakeboarding fool,” she said. When she wasn’t wakeboarding, she was studying in an effort to graduate early and follow her dream to go to Orlando, Fla., the mecca for U.S. wakeboarding.

That beginning eventually branched into all sorts of different avenues, from reporting to television to promotions and modeling.

One constant theme has run through her career. “I did it my way,” she said.

She emphasized to her young audience the need to never use a problem or obstacle as an excuse, but to continue pursing their goals.

“Every single day I have an opportunity to use my cancer as an excuse,” she said. “The minute I start using cancer as an excuse is the minute cancer starts controlling my life.”

Score considers herself a survivor in life.

“Surviving is a way of life,” she said. “Surviving is when accomplishing your mission is greater than all of your reasons not to.”