High school senior is National PTA Youth Advocate of the Year Ambassador

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- The election campaign season is cranking up to the mid-term election this fall, and once again we'll be voting for people to hold important federal, state and local offices.

The FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever of the Week won't be on the ballot this time around, but don't be surprised if you see him running for office very soon in his quest to be of service and to help people.

When the student Interact Club at Platte County High School earlier this spring put on Arrive Alive, a school and community event to combat distracted driving, senior Gabriel Unruh seemed to be everywhere.

"What these are, they're pledge cards," said FOX 4 Young Achiever Gabriel Unruh describing the large student pledge board at event. "For example, you make a pledge to not text and drive or to drive safely." As president of the school service club he founded here his junior year, Gabriel was in his element at this event -- in charge, meeting and greeting, problem-solving, leading.

"He's motivated, he's genuine, he's enthusiastic," said Platte County High School Assistant Principal Shari Waters, one of Gabriel's strong mentors and Interact Club advisor. "And he's a motivator and kids do like to follow Gabriel. He's got great ideas. And he's not one of those young people that has the ideas and then expects everyone else to carry through He actually gets his hands dirty, so to speak, and gets right in there and works beside people and always with a genuine interest in helping others."

Gabriel is student body president at Platte County High School, too, and holds other leadership posts in other clubs and groups. Gabriel said he was drawn to school and organization leadership around the time he started middle school and he began to explore activities and interests.

"I was always a kid who was very driven, to say the least," said Gabriel. "But in a lot of ways, I was shy or maybe it was more nerve-wracking to be up in front of people of people. So when I started to get into leadership and I was encouraged to get into leadership, it was very daunting and it was very scary."

But Gabriel persevered and that was his jump-start as he came to see public and community service as his life path.

"It was a challenge that I found I could overcome and then once I overcame that challenge, I found I really liked being able to lead a group of people in an activity and working together to accomplish something," said Gabriel."

Gabriel's senior year has been a watershed time for top-level experiences and honors in advancing his impressive leadership skills. Missouri Boys State last summer. The prestigious U.S. Senate Youth Program in Washington, DC this spring. 2014 Coca Cola Scholar for which he received $20,000 for college.

And for his work on Arrive Alive and creating Interact Club, the National PTA named him its Youth Advocate of the Year Ambassador -- the only one in America for 2014.

"The award is all about advocating for students in particular, and through education," said Gabriel. "And that's exactly what we've done with Arrive Alive and what I've done with a lot of the other service projects we've done."

Gabriel's strength, confidence and success as a leader are all the more impressive because he was bullied and shy as a grade schooler. His remarkable transformation occurred, he said , when he transferred to Platte County schools where nurturing adult mentors came into his life to join his mom and dad in boosting him -- people he calls "guardian advocates".

"And that's why I feel it's important now for me to be able to be that guardian advocate for others," said Gabriel. "And that's my goal." Creating, innovating and motivating as he reaches that goal.

Gabriel has a busy summer ahead including returning to Missouri Boys State next month, this time on staff. Then he heads to American University in Washington, DC in the fall to start college on scholarship in the university's public service oriented honors program. He also plans to work in the DC offices of Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and U.S. Congressman Sam Graves while he's in college.

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.

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