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Pa. teen 'born to lead'

September 06, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Madison Onomastico never pictured herself leading the student body at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School, let alone middle school students across the nation.

Sure, she did her best to be kind and say "hello" to those she passed in the halls. As an only child, she was always eager to meet new friends.

And yeah, she usually volunteered to head group projects when assigned in class.

But a leader?

Six months ago, she might have laughed at the idea.

"I never thought of myself as a leader," she said. "But when I was nominated and started through the process, I realized I really was born to lead."

Madison, 13, joined about 200 students nationwide at the National Youth Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., last spring, thanks to a nomination from a former teacher, Mrs. Anne Conrad.

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The experience changed her life.

Not long after Madison returned from the institute, she wanted to put her newly-found skills to use.

So she ran for student council president.

Sitting in the school office at the close of the second day back this fall, the gravity of the last few months still had not quite sunk in for the eighth-grader.

She had been part of the National Youth Leadership Institute. She was one of only a handful of students chosen. Now she was president of her school's student council.

The young girl eager to make friends had blossomed into a confident, humble, yet charismatic leader.

"When I walked down the halls they call me the president," she said. "It makes me feel special. They saw me as their leader."

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being student council president, she said.

Fulfilling her promises to the students sits at the top of her to-do list.

"I really didn't want it (the election) to be a popularity contest," she said. "I didn't think I could win if it was."

Madison said she ran on her merits, her kindness and a promise to offer as many dances and after-school activities as possible for students to socialize.

While she has not had much chance to begin fundraising or planning events that will bring the students closer, her goals still fill her mind.

"I hope people remember how I act toward them," she said. "What makes a great leader is respect; respect for those around you and for yourself."

To keep her head level, Madison turns to the life of women's rights activist Gloria Steinem and the words of the Bible.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," she quoted. "I keep those in the back of my mind. This can be overwhelming."

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