By: Jarrod E. Stephens
The Ashland Beacon
If ever there has been a time when we need highly devoted leaders to emerge, the time is now. The Kentucky Colonels is an organization that recognizes leaders who exhibit selfless service to their community, state and country. Worthington Elementary Principal Kyle Russell was recently named as a Kentucky Colonel in a surprise ceremony at his school.
Mr. Russell thought that he was simply attending a Read Across America assembly when he was surprised by some special guests who arrived. Just as The Cat in the Hat was read to the students, Russell’s eyes lit up when his parents who live in Indiana, his friend Jeff Ratliff from Piqua, Ohio, and his friend Travis Jones from Mechanicsville, Virginia, walked in alongside his wife and daughter.
“I feel like this is a dream,” Russell whispered as he watched.
The assembly was indeed a time to kick off a reading event but was also a time to recognize the superb leadership that Russell exhibits each day at work. Russell brings out the best in his students and staff with his positive attitude. Aside from being the principal of Worthington Elementary, he serves as an elder at Bridges Christian Church. He has also led and organized mission trips to Juarez, Mexico and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.
It is said, good leaders are not just born; they are cultivated. If you ask Russell who his greatest influence in the realm of leadership is, he will be quick to reply, “My dad is my No. 1 influence when it comes to leadership, he has pastored churches for 45 years, and I model myself after his example,” Russell said. “Above everything else, he is servant-minded and humble. He has a gentle spirit and is compassionate toward those in need. I will never be half the leader he is, but will strive to do my best.”
His friends Jeff and Travis did the honors of presenting him with the certificate officially naming him as a Kentucky Colonel. When he was asked why becoming a Kentucky Colonel was such an important achievement Russell said, “I was born in Kentucky, but spent most of my childhood in Ohio and Indiana. We would visit my grandparents in Grayson, and I fell in love with Kentucky Christian College/KCU as a kid. I love the people of Kentucky and their kindness and devotion to the Commonwealth. Having people feel I am worthy of being honored with anything is humbling enough, but to be a Kentucky Colonel is special.”
He followed up by saying, “My grandfather was a Colonel and my friends Jeff and Travis are, as well. It has been a running joke for years that they were one and I was not, so for them to travel all the way here to present this to me meant a lot.”
Russell truly brings out the best in those around him and never seeks out praise or notoriety for his actions. The students and staff of Worthington Elementary and members of Mr. Russell’s community and family are all better people because of his selfless service. Congratulations Mr. Russell on your achievement.