Island Time

Coupeville High School's Leo Club equals leadership, experience, opportunity

A new club at Coupeville High School has come in like a lion. Or perhaps Lion with a capital “L” would be more appropriate, since the Coupeville Lions Club is behind its creation.

“This is the opportunity for students to engage in servicing the community, just like the Lions Club,” said John Kohlmann, Leo Club advisor and Coupeville Lion.

“The Coupeville Lions Club has a good reputation and it’s one of the largest clubs in the state,” he continued. “That good image made the kids feel like this was a good link for them.”

The Leo Club is something Kohlmann has had in mind for at least a couple of years. He attended a training session about the Leo Club at a Lions conference about a year ago and brought the idea back to the local group, which gave him permission to try to get a group started.

“Part of the process involved visiting the Leo Club in Friday Harbor and talk with them about what worked and what didn’t work,” Kohlmann said.

One recommendation from the Friday Harbor group was that the new club be set up as an independent club, rather than an official school club, which can sometimes limit what groups are able to do, Kohlmann said.

Members of the Leo Club are technically representatives of the Lions organization when they participate in club activities, as opposed to representing the school.

Kohlmann said they started recruiting members for the new group in April. In order to form an official club, there have to be 15 members. He said he and fellow Lions hung out at the school cafeteria during lunch, passing out flyers and talking with students.

“By the end of the school year, we had 12 kids signed up,” he said. “We planned a potluck picnic out at the Fort Casey pool, some of the kids brought friends, and that gave us our 15 members.”

The club has now received all the official documentation and plans are in the works for the official chartering process, which Kohlmann expects to take place in January.

Since the beginning of the school year, membership has grown to include 20 students. The group meets twice a month during the school’s lunch hour.

At the group’s last meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, Mary Mitchell of Readiness to Learn was there to talk to members about plans to “adopt” a family for Christmas.

Different suggestions and scenarios were tossed around the table before members decided on a course of action.

Kohlmann encouraged and nudged the group to take action on another project it’s working on.

“In connection with taking donations of items to send to the troop, I’ve been in touch with the Commander and so he thinks this is going to happen,” he chided gently. “So it would be disappointing if we weren’t able to do it. It’s important to talk to people you know.”

Though the Coupeville Leo Club is new this year, Leo Clubs have been around for a long time.

Worldwide, more than 150,000 young people in 139 countries call themselves Leos. The organization is a great learning experience for the students, Kohlmann said.

“It provides leadership opportunities, community involvement; both are great values to teach kids,” he said. “When I visited the San Juan club, the students said they were seeing real value in being involved in it.”

“It’s so interesting to see the quality of the kids involved in the Leos,” said Lion chaperone Hugh Hedges, who has experience working with the Leo Club in Lakewood, near Tacoma. “The kids just wanted to help and it was such a learning session for me as well.”

Community involvement was the first thing that came to mind when students were asked why they wanted to join the Leo Club.

“I had an opportunity to go to the Lions Camp Horizon over the summer,” junior McKenzie Kooch said. “I really wanted to help out with the community and this seemed like fun.”

“This is just another way to help the community that I’ve been part of my whole life,” senior Drew Chan said. “It’s a way of giving back.”

“I was looking for a way to help the community and volunteer,” freshman McKenzie Rice said.

Whatever their reasons for joining, the club is off to a good start, according to Kohlmann. Now he hopes to keep the momentum going.

“It will be a challenge to keep this alive over the next couple of years,” he said. “Like any organization, it has to build its own reputation and the kids have to have fun at it.”

Any student interesting in joining the Leo Club can pick up an application in the school office or e-mail Kohlmann at There is a $20 member fee, which is paid to the Lions club.

Fore more information on the Leo Club go to


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