JaiCee June Lester, Checotah High School, actively participates in numerous community service initiatives to make a positive difference in the lives of others. She created the Share the Warmth program to collect no-slip socks and blankets for the local nursing home and received enough donations to give each resident three pairs of socks and a blanket.
Lester has participated in various service projects, such as volunteering with the Oklahoma Blood Institute, the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, Checotah Nursing Center, WISH (Women in Safe Homes), and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s statewide clean-up day. She also serves as a member of Fostering Hope’s Teen Board and raised $20,000 soliciting donations from local businesses and organizations. Fostering Hope’s primary goal is to help ease children’s anxiety when they transition into the foster care system.
In summer 2022, Lester was selected to be a member of the 2022 class of Youth Leadership Oklahoma. She participated in Youth Tour Oklahoma and attended both the University of Oklahoma Campus Activities Council’s High School Leadership Conference and Oklahoma State University’s TLX (The Leadership Experience). She is captain of the girls’ basketball team and a member of the track team, served as a page for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and is a member of the Business Professionals of America.
Lester received her academic letter jacket and is a Philanthropic Educational Organization’s Star Student. She is a member of Gifted and Talented, the National Honor Society and the Oklahoma Student Indian Honor Society. She is ranked first in her class and will graduate with a 4.0 GPA. Through concurrent enrollment at Connors State College, she will earn an associate degree before starting college. She was admitted to both Oklahoma State University Honors College and the University of Oklahoma Honors College but plans to attend Northeastern State University in the fall.
Kaden Jake Rhodes, Locust Grove High School, has engaged in extensive service to both his school and community. He participated in the Ronald McDonald Pick Up the Tab Project by collecting and delivering donated pop tabs to benefit the local Ronald McDonald House in Tulsa, helped pack backpacks full of food to be delivered to elementary children, and prepared meals as part of the Stamp Out Starvation program through the Northeast District Leadership Conference.
Rhodes also shares his passion for STEM and computer programming. He created and organized a STEM room challenge for an end-of-the-year Fun Day event at Locust Grove Upper Elementary and was selected to receive grants to attend national 4-H conferences in Washington, D.C. and Lehi, Utah, where he collaborated with representatives from other states to develop and advance STEM curricula across the nation. He also coordinated and managed several STEM booths and camps, represented Oklahoma at the National Maker Summit in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and helped coordinate a Google national corporate event, Grow with Google, where he taught coding skills to students. Additionally, Rhodes volunteered to help set-up more than 700 Chromebooks and iPads for districtwide student use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhodes’ efforts to advocate for digital literacy and computer science education in his school and community exemplify his excellent leadership skills. He was selected as an Oklahoma State University 4-H STEM Innovator and serves as a member of the Mayes County H.O.P.E. Coalition, Locust Grove Arts Alliance, 4-H Youth Organization, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial Youth Service, and Sunshine Committee, which provides gifts and activities for nursing home residents. He also serves on Student Council and was a delegate for Oklahoma 4-H Day at the Capitol and the National 4-H Conference Rural Broadband event. He held many school leadership positions, including 4-H vice president, Mayes County 4-H president and senior class president.
Rhodes graduated with a 4.0 GPA and completed several honors courses and 15 college credit hours through concurrent enrollment at Rogers State University. He is a nominee for U.S. Presidential Scholar, a member of the National Honor Society and class valedictorian. He plans to attend Oklahoma State University in the fall.