More than 33,000 teens have taken part in a Key Leader program, now in its 15th year. Much has changed about Key Leader in that time, but its emphasis on service leadership and five key principles — growth, integrity, respect, community and excellence — remain constant elements of the program.

Justin Mann lives with his wife and 10-month-old daughter in Oklahoma, where he works for the U.S. Navy. He’s a two-time graduate of Key Leader and was a member of his local Key Club. He says his Key Leader experience gave him resources he uses now as an adult.

“The thing I still use, and something that helped in my career, are the listening skills,” says Mann. “There are a lot of A-type personalities in the military, so being able to listen between the lines and connect words with action is important.”

Another standout element of Key Leader is a values-identification activity. Attendees choose their top values and are then asked to rank them on a large chart. Mann says it “helped understanding that everyone’s priorities are different.” He says accepting those different priorities helps people work together; and he uses an example of his and his wife’s timeliness. (One is OK being a little late while the other is a stickler for time.)

Mann points to Key Leader’s emphasis on teamwork as an essential skill for youth.

“The only way to get through this world is with friendship and a team,” he says.

Key Leader will continue to equip high school students and graduating eighth-grade students with important social-emotional skills and a commitment to their community.

Thanks to Justin for sharing his thoughts and time with us, and for demonstrating the values emphasized through Key Leader in his day-to-day life and work.

For more on Key Leader or to register a student for a Key Leader event in your area, visit Or, contact Nik Koulogeorge at  to establish a Key Leader program in your area.