JHS Student Today, Leader Tomorrow

Tara Djukanovic sat amongst hundreds of other students from the Des Moines metro, waiting to hear who would be picked.

Four students, including JHS senior Tara Djukanovic at the National Council on Youth Leadership Meeting

Four students from central Iowa, including Johnston’s Tara Djukanovic (center, right) at the Town Meeting on Tomorrow.

Even as they read a description of her to the crowd, she didn’t believe it to be true until her name was called. Djukanovic had been chosen to attend the National Council on Youth Leadership’s Town Meeting on Tomorrow.

“I first heard about the conference when I was a freshman,” said Djukanovic, now a senior at Johnston High School. “I applied last February, knowing it was very selective, and was surprised to be picked.”

According to JHS counselor Curt Larkin, Djukanovic is the first student from Johnston to attend this national conference. Seventeen Johnston students applied this year, along with hundreds from the area, and only four were chosen to represent Iowa’s capital community.

Dave Oldham, a JHS chemistry teacher, was not surprised to hear of Djukanovic’s attendance at a leadership conference and attributed her success to Johnston’s strong extracurriculars and core academics.

“Tara is a raw leader,” said Oldham. “Johnston does a good job of giving students opportunities to push themselves as much as they’d like – which Tara takes advantage of through speech and debate, drama, and AP classes. Everything she does she does to the best of her ability and her work ethic is unrivaled.”

The town meeting conference took place over the course of five days, October 15-18, at Washington University; a school Djukanovic hopes to attend one day to study human rights and international relations. The theme of the conference, according to Djukanovic, was teaching students to be leaders within their community and throughout the world.

“Time flew,” said Djukanovic. “It was a really fun, interactive event with long full days that felt short.”

One day, Djukanovic was tasked with moderating a human rights debate. Abortion came up, things got heated, and Djukanovic recalled being impressed by everyone’s passion.

“I was worried it would be difficult to facilitate, but instead it was inspiring to see,” Djukanovic said. Especially since the conference also taught Djukanovic strategies to help others find their passions.

But the biggest take away, Djukanovic said, was introspection.

“You have to know yourself before you can help others,” said Djukanovic. “I hadn’t grasped that before. I thought my schedule and priorities were in check, I was wrong.”

Thanks to the Town Meeting on Tomorrow, Djukanovic is even more thrilled to see where her leadership takes her, and is grateful to have had to the opportunity to learn more.