Elkhart Schools superintendent challenges students to take responsibility for city

Elkhart Community Schools hosted a first-time event, a student leadership summit for high school students. Leaders in the community and a guest speaker spoke about the qualities of a great leader.

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 8:56 p.m.

ELKHART — High school students in Elkhart heard a familiar message from new voices during a student leadership summit this summer.

For the first time, Elkhart Community Schools asked students to attend a half-day event at Central where community leaders and guest speaker Mark Whitacre encouraged them to live with integrity and responsibility. 

L.Craig Fulmer Champion of Youth Awards

Elkhart Schools also recognized four individuals in the community who have dedicated time and resources to serving youth.

Ashley Martin, Harry Smith, Bob Meyers and Art Decio were recipients of the first L.Craig Fulmer Champion of Youth awards, in honor of Fulmer’s leadership in Elkhart and dedication to children in the community.

Fulmer died May 21, 2014. He is remembered for many contributions specifically to downtown Elkhart, including the Lerner Theatre renovation, the IUSB Elkhart building and the RiverWalk. 

They also heard from one very familiar voice, that of Superintendent Rob Haworth.

"I invited you here today because I am challenging you to live for Elkhart," Haworth said, addressing students near the end of the day as they gathered in Central’s cafeteria. 

He reminded the approximately 150 students they’d been chosen to attend the leadership summit based on recommendations from their teachers, coaches, counselors or other staff members at their school. 

He asked students to take ownership in Elkhart and to look for opportunities to lead with integrity, responsibility, respect and service.

Whitacre, a former FBI informant turned white-collar criminal, told the students his story of how he made a series of wrong decisions that resulted in a stint in federal prison.

He was a top executive at Archer Daniels Midland and working for the FBI as they investigated ADM for price-fixing. 

Toward the end of the FBI’s investigation, Whitacre said he decided to embezzle about $9 million from ADM because he was concerned he wouldn't be able to find another job.

That decision — one of the "forks in the road" Whitacre said he faced in his professional career — sent him to prison for eight and a half years. 

Today, he regularly speaks to groups about his experience, hoping to warn others away from traveling down an equally disastrous path. 

He cautioned Elkhart students against greed and becoming obsessed with material wealth: "What you want to do is have a life of significance — that’s a successful person," he said. 

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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