OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- In a few days we will mark the anniversary of a very sad and monstrous incident in our metro area and the nation. A boy and his grandfather and a woman were gunned down in Jewish-related facilities in Johnson County.
Police and prosecutors say they man who did it is an avowed anti-Semitic and white supremacist. The families of the victims and their supporters are turning the anniversary into a campaign to overcome senseless acts of hate and intolerance -- and this week's FOX 4 Young Achiever is stepping up to help them lead it.
"The name of our event is 'Seven Days, Make a Ripple, Change the World.'"
As Mindy Corporon conducted a recent news conference to announce final plans for a major community event to commemorate the one year anniversary of the shootings last April in which her son and father were murdered, high school junior Jake Goldman stood in the group beside her.
Jake is the head of the youth board of Faith Always Wins, the foundation the Corporon family established after the shootings. And he's become an indispensable member of the leadership team.
"Jake has some ideas that are important," said Corporon. "And then he's not afraid to share those ideas with adults and then to coordinate efforts to actually bring them to fruition."
Jake and Corporon found each other through the Blue Valley School District. Already troubled by some student behavior at Blue Valley North High that he saw as bigoted, Jake had proposed a school event after last April's shootings -- a walk to raise awareness to hatred and intolerance and to combat it. A walk is now part of the Seven Days project.
"I guess I was originally thinking how after the incident there's an opportunity for change in our community," said Jake. "So I felt compelled to figure out a solution and bring about the change."
Jake has thoroughly embraced community and school leadership, especially in causes and organizations that center on advocacy and acceptance in diversity and multiculturalism.
"I think it's because I have a voice," said Jake of his effectiveness. "I think I have the ability to speak up and I have the ability to tell others how I feel."
His is a strong, persuasive voice and he has the confidence to use it -- fearlessly. Jake has done it as class president all three years of high school, as president of North High's Diversity Club and as the only student member of the Blue Valley School District Human Relations Advisory Board.
"His leadership skills are very broad already at such a young age," said Mindy Corporon in admiration. "His self-confidence. His ability to follow through. His ability to communicate effectively."
And Corporon admires Jake most for his passion and compassion -- calling him the kind of caring young leader her own son, Reat, was becoming. It's a comparison that drives Jake even harder to make a difference -- to tear down barriers that divide us.
"It's crazy to think these issues have been going on forever and it's going to be so difficult to change," said Jake. "Bringing awareness across the world, that's what's going to change how we feel about each other. To realize that we're really not that different."
The youth of the world, Jake says, will drive that change. And he'll be right out front.
Jake is not the first in his family to be a FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever. His sisters, Emily and Alex, were featured in November 2011 for their community service enterprise, Photos4Good, which had them taking high quality photos free of charge for non-profit organizations, saving the charities and community organizations big money to spend on programs and services. Jake continued on with that project.
Meantime, the Seven Days, Make a Ripple, Change the World event starts April 7th and runs through April 13th with different themes and activities each day, including the walk April 13th from the Jewish Community Center campus to the Faith, Love and Kindness Celebration at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. Click on this link for the details.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.