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Meet Ariana, a (millennial) Key Leader

Nik Koulogeorge | Sep 19, 2019

Ariana Nikmanesh

Key Leader has provided high-caliber service leadership education for teen youth since 2005. Over the course of a few days, students identify their values, find their fit in their respective communities and learn to set SMART goals.

To celebrate 15 years of Key Leader, we got in touch with a few of the more than 33,000 Key Leader attendees.

Ariana Nikmanesh learned about Key Leader as a Key Club member. “It was through my role as lieutenant governor [for the Rocky Mountain District] where I learned about [Key Leader],” she says.

When asked what stands out most from her Key Leader experience, Nikmanesh recalls an activity where participants must follow a leader and make a loud noise until everyone is in just the right position. The activity teaches the importance of alignment with our values.

“To this day, if there is ever an ethically challenging decision I must make, a beeping noise will come to my mind and remind me to proceed with caution,” says Nikmanesh.  

The process played out in real life when one of her professors had intentionally changed her class’ grades to reflect higher scores than their actual result. Nikmanesh, who had considered not telling her professor about her higher grade, recalled what she learned at Key Leader, and later found out she was the only member of the class to report the discrepancy.

“I owe my ethical decision-making skills to Key Club and events like Key Leader. Without it, I would have probably let it slide just like everyone else.”

Learning to make a difference through events like Key Leader also helped Nikmanesh become one of the founding members of the National Millennial Community (NMC). “[It’s] a group of millennial thinkers who desire to change the conversation about [our] generation by meeting with executives of Fortune 500 companies.”

As a result of her work, Nikmanesh was appointed to serve as a commissioner on the Denver Women’s Commission by Mayor Michael B. Hancock. She also serves on the Oracle Women’s Leadership Board to help advance gender equality in the tech industry. (Nikmanesh is an Oracle + NetSuite employee).

“It is because of Key Club and events like Key Leader that I have learned how to make a difference and have identified my purpose as serving others, fighting for women and making the world a better place,” she says.

What should future Key Leader attendees keep in mind while taking part in the program?

According to Nikmanesh: “I hope that future Key Leader attendees gain not only the skill set, but also the confidence it takes to become an effective servant leader.”


For more on Key Leader, or to register a student for a Key Leader in your district, visit key-leader.org.

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