Written by: Michelle Stecher, Executive Director
“A leader is best known when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say; we did it ourselves,” Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer. This quote is a solid reflection of how Steele McClinton, junior at Vail Christian High School, shows up to support her peers.
A quiet and inquisitive young lady, Steele said her good friends would describe her as an “extroverted introvert,” someone who is quiet at first and opens up and gets comfortable quickly in certain environments. Steele creates a tranquil and relaxed space and she is constantly attentive to the feelings and emotions of those around her. When talking with her, 100% of her focus and presence is felt. She lives her life with the unique attribute of continuously putting herself in other people’s shoes. “I can feel for people; hurt with people. It is easy for humans to judge others and we need to remember- we do not know what is going on in their life,” Steele reflects. This outlook has enabled her to make new and unexpected friendships, and offered her the confidence to call someone out if they are coming off as rude or insensitive.
Steele offers an observation of her generation in her mature and sincere fashion. While it has been extremely uneasy and challenging as an adolescent responding to COVID-related restrictions and pressures on social media, this generation is open to talking about very hard and deep topics, such as mental health. Steele and her peers impress with their maturity in engaging in friendly debate when they don’t see eye to eye. They understand the benefits of talking about mental health, providing persistent support and maintaining respect, even through disagreement.
Steele’s perspective of accepting someone as honest and deserving of trust regardless of the circumstance is heavily inspired by her parents. “My mom was a therapist and is great at uncovering deeper emotions, and my father is the kind of person that strangers will share their full life story with,” she explains. Other role models in Steele’s life have included coaches and teachers, especially her assistant basketball coach. Steele describes, “Coach Elizinga understands when I am frustrated, offers much-needed perspective, is funny and easy to talk to. She believes in me.” Research shows that trusted adults are a primary protective factor, or asset, that helps build resilience in young people. Here in Eagle County a whopping 70% of high schoolers and 72% of middle schoolers reported having an adult they can go to for help with a serious problem; I urge you to keep in mind during your interactions with young people that your words and behaviors can have a significant impact (2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey).
Steele has made it a priority to get involved with a variety of opportunities, and her biggest piece of advice to younger peers is to get involved- even if the activities push your comfort zone. An avid athlete- volleyball, basketball and soccer- Steele finds time off the court and field to serve others. Her volunteer roster is impressive. Loaves and Fishes has been a volunteer highlight for years, having fun cooking and serving free meals to the community while getting to meet new and unique neighbors. Steele has been involved with the newly launched Vail Christian B.I.O.N.I.C club (Believe It Or Not I Care), aiming to reach out and connect with fellow peers. Steele describes, “If someone is going through a tough time, it can make a big difference to write a thoughtful card and offer them a little candy treat.” B.I.O.N.I.C was originally established after a wave of teen suicides in Lakewood, Colorado. Vail Christian’s student-led team organizes fun activities to connect and ensures young people reach out to peers during times of crisis. This student-led approach is a theme with Steele’s engagements, having served as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors of Mountain Youth since January of 2021. With roughly one third of the organizations 501(c)3 Board comprised of local students, all major decisions are made with youth voice and priorities front-of-mind. “It is important to build skills and to have a voice in decisions. If people can start listening to us now, we can start creating change today,” Steele summarizes.
Whether Steele pursues a path in sports psychology, astrophysics, or a field she has yet to discover, we are eager to follow her path in making a positive impact on others.