Victoria teen chosen to attend leadership conference in Canada

Sonny Long

June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.

Even at 15, Colter Keathley's leadership skills are obvious.

A two-time team leader at the Sure B.E.T. Youth Leadership Conference in Victoria, Colter was selected to attend the Alcoa Global Leadership Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada the first two weeks of August.

"I am thrilled that Colter was chosen," said Rhonda Fotiades, former Sure B.E.T. executive director who nominated Keathley. "This endorses the fact that Victoria, Texas is producing world-class leaders."

Only 100 students from around the world will take part in the Institute for Civic Leadership Summer Academy.

Colter is excited about the opportunity.

"Whenever I'm 50 and look back at this summer, I will be glad I went to that camp. It's a beneficial use of my time," he said. "I think I'll come back with not just a whole knowledge set of new skills and tools of information that I have learned, but probably more motivated. It will be uplifting knowing that all 100 of us are going back to our communities and doing good."

Colter, who is home-schooled by his parents, Mark and Bonnie Keathley, is active in the youth band at Northside Baptist Church, takes martial arts lessons in two disciplines and enjoys basketball and golf.

He credits his participation in the Sure B.E.T. Youth Leadership Conference with motivating him to want to continue improving his leadership skills.

"I get kind of a thrill watching these kids come to the conference and be shy and not want to talk or take part in the games and by the end really opening up after all the positive influences we throw at them," he said. "It really opens them up. It's a good thing. Each kid responds to different things in his own way."

And so did Colter, who cited Jon Sheptock as the most influential part of the recently competed conference. Sheptock is a motivational speaker with no arms who was given up at birth by his mother.

"He's amazing," Colter said. "He totally eradicates self-pity. He made me realize my problems aren't actually that big even though they seem 'gi-normous'."

He also learned a valuable lesson from the rock wall that students climbed during the conference.

"It was a neat parallel to life," he said. "Whenever you are climbing the rock wall and find a good grip, it's hard to let go of that, but if you can, you can move on and move up and get the ultimate prize - ring the bell and get back on the ground."

Colter's mother said she noticed a difference in her son after the first day of this year's local leadership conference.

"Colter came home and his whole mind-set had changed from just having fun to wanting to invest time into those kids," she said.

Colter is able to attend the conference in Canada through the generosity of the Victoria community, said Fotiades. The tuition is $3,000 plus air fare and expenses, she said.

"The people and business community in Victoria have really stepped up," she said.

Colter already has developed ideas about leaders and leadership.

The qualities of a good leader, he said, include knowing what you believe and not being distracted by others telling you what you should believe.

"The type of leadership I want to learn is when you can forget about yourself and raise up everyone else," said Colter.



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