Let’s take a trip to summer of last year. I was a completely different person: pessimistic, unmotivated and scared. I was scared of the future, of who I’d become, of where I’d go, and of what I’d do with my life in the next few years.

I received a call one afternoon from Melanie Saunders. She invited me to sign up for her new class: Leadership. I remember not exactly being sure of what this would entail but signing up anyways to see where it would take me.

Fast forward to January of this year. We were a few days into the semester, and I was a unsure of whether I truly belonged in this leadership class. When I looked at myself, I didn’t see a leader whatsoever. I saw a girl who was scared of going out of her comfort zone, a girl who didn’t know who she truly was, a girl who thought she could never in her wildest dreams be a leader.

When I thought of a leader, I thought of someone such as the president or a CEO, not a teenage girl who gets nervous when she’s called on in class.

However, I now stand before you, four months later, as a completely different person. Yes, I still get nervous when speaking (hopefully it doesn’t show), but I live with a completely new mindset. And it’s all thanks to this leadership class.

I see the world so much differently. I now see just how blessed I am and everything the world has to offer. I greet new opportunities with, in the words of one of our guest speakers, Mr. Ryan Garrett, an open mind and a thankful heart.

I’ve learned that leadership has no look, no wardrobe and no age. Leadership is everywhere that we look. It’s in our classrooms, and it’s in our factories. It’s in our town officials, and it’s in our janitors.

Leadership is in each and every one of us if we allow ourselves to put us second and the well being of others first.

One of the most important things I have learned, not only in our class, but from our cohorts as well, is that leadership is never about you. It is about making sure that you are doing what is best for everyone around you and for those who you lead.

I have learned that growth is essential, no one rises from where they are by staying the same. I also have learned that change is good, adaptability is vital to being a leader.

I was so afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone, because I found comfort in the constants. I found solace in staying the same. Denying myself change is what held me back. It is what kept me from realizing everything that I have to offer.

Without this class, I would not have the opportunities that I have today. I would not see everything with an open mind.

Four months ago, I would have never dreamed of a class where I get to make a change by speaking to politicians about building a new high school. I would have never dreamed of a class where we have beanbags and a sofa in order to better stimulate students. I would have never dreamed of a class that would help me find my true passion, which is helping others.

I would have never dreamed of a class that cares so deeply about what students have to say. I have found all of this in my leadership class.

I found a volunteer opportunity to tutor after school every week because of this class.

I had no clue when starting out just how much it would mean to me, but it has became something that I looked forward to doing every single week. We are so thankful to all of our cohorts for opening your doors to us, and offering your advice, your stories and your belief in us. This would have never been possible without you all, and our class is so grateful for your time and dedication. We also would like to thank our guest speakers for visiting every week and being amazing examples of leaders in our community.

We also want to thank a very special person. This individual is probably the best example of a leader that I could ever give. She is the most selfless, genuine and caring person I have ever met.

Without her, none of this would be a reality. This person has pushed us beyond what we may have thought was possible. I have never seen anyone so dedicated to something, so passionate about what she does or so willing to do anything to make something happen. This person is Melanie Saunders.

I don’t think there is anyone better for this position than her. We are so incredibly thankful for her, and we can only hope of being as good of a leader as she is. She has taken me from that unmotivated and nervous girl into someone who now feels like they can be, and are becoming, a leader.

I can only hope that this class will help others like me in the future, to help them realize that leadership has no look, no wardrobe and no age.

Leadership is in each and every one of us.

Sara-Beth Talley is a junior at Halifax County High School who currently is taking the new leadership class. She wrote this letter to show how this class has impacted her and how she feels it will impact others.