South Salem student, McKay choir instructor recognized with leadership awards


Student Dara Elkanah at a ribbon cutting ceremony at South Salem High School on Oct. 21, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A South Salem High School student and a McKay High School teacher last month received statewide awards for their work as leaders in the community.

The pair was recognized with the second annual ILEAD Impact Awards, which recognize teen leaders or groups that positively impacted their community and a youth leadership development professional, program or organization that influenced the next generation of leaders, according to a Monday news release from the city of Salem.

Senior Dara Elkanah was recognized for her community service at her school and in the Salem area. She is the founding president of South Salem’s Best Buddies chapter, which helps build friendships, inclusive activities and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the news release said. 

Elkanah is in a mental health club as well as leadership development program DECA, collects food for the homeless, works with in a nonprofit that supports African refugee families and volunteered more than 100 hours at Camp Attitude to help kids with  disabilities. “She’s also facilitated training to school staff, serves as a Community Outreach Intern for the Salem Keizer School District, and is a representative for the Student Equity Committee at the school and District level,” the news release said.

Peter Sepulveda, a seven-year teacher the choir instructor at McKay High School, received the ILEAD Impact Award for “leadership development professional recognition.”

Sepulveda graduated from St. Olaf College with a bachelor’s of music  in vocal musical education and earned a master’s of science in education from Portland State University. He said he enjoys McKay High School’s diverse community and “appreciates the opportunity to see students grow as leaders and change agents in their community,” the news release said.

Peter Sepulveda, a seven-year teacher and McKay High School’s choir instructor (Courtesy/City of Salem)

The public submitted nominations for the awards at the city-run ILEAD Youth Leadership Summit Dec. 11., and the ILEAD youth committee voted on the recipients.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian