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Getting along, helping out are keys for this born leader

Whether organizing a protest on a national issue or serving as student representative on her district’s school board, It doesn’t take much for Katie Schneider-Thomas to get involved.

Katie’s tendency toward leadership started in early childhood, when she demonstrated a liking for planning birthday parties — even if they were only for Barbie dolls.

Katie Schneider-Thomas during a recent forensic competition

“I really found my voice in middle school when I joined band,” she said. “As the section leader, it was my job to make sure everyone in my section was doing what was needed.”

She also started in theater in sixth grade, and said she found she “picked it up easily and enjoyed helping others get involved.” She played parts from a zombie to heroes in Olympus, and quickly learned that whether on stage or stage crew, she knew just what had to be done.

Katie guesses that she had always had a “tendency toward being a leader,” and “it just came naturally.”

Katie credits Mom and Dad, Julia and Brian Schneider-Thomas, with always encouraging her to achieve her goals. “We have a very close relationship, and they really pushed me to go and do whatever I wanted to do. I am an only child, and that gave me a chance to grow individually, and they wanted me to be my own person.”

“But looking back there have been many adults in my life that I really look up to,” she said. “And lots of teachers who really have had a big influence on me.”

Being chosen as drum major for the high school band was a huge motivator, Katie said. “With the band director up in box, it is our job to see problems are contained.” Some of those jobs are working with students that don’t get along and making sure everyone is on task.

High school principal Bill Crane noticed Katie’s capability and willingness to step up when he met her at a band camp, during which both Katie and his daughter were participating. “He just came to me and said he thought that I would be great to fill the spot on the (school) board,” Katie said.

Friends Katie Schneider-Thomas and Jade Farrington take time to show affection during school day

She was confident in her public speaking ability, but admits she knew nothing about what the Board of Education did.

“This (board) is not the right platform for all issues (of the students), but it is important,” she said. “I know that about two years ago, the student representative told the board about the faulty hand dryers and they helped get them replaced. I really want to present a positive look at the student body to the board.”

Other ways Katie has gotten involved is by helping coordinate events such as presentations made by School Resource Officer Scott Cook; working with student volunteer groups to organize homecoming and other  gatherings; and volunteering to help with school blood drives.

She also said she stays abreast of U.S. political climate and how students are affected.  “So much is thrown at us from each side,” she said. “Kids’ views matter and noone should be afraid to speak out.”

What drives her to lead? “The biggest thing is, I know that not everybody is going to be like you, but you still need to get along.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst was a reporter for SNN covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts.


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