Two Truman High School students in Independence are following their family’s tradition of leadership and community service.
Madeline and Aubrey LeVota were recently elected by their fellow student council members as president and vice president of entertainment for THS’s Student Council. Their last names may sound familiar because Madeline’s father and Aubrey’s uncle is State Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence.
However, in what may seem like a situation that suggests the benefits of having political ties is actually quite the contrary, according to Sen. LeVota and THS STUCO sponsor and teacher Angie Zarrillo.
The two say - as well as the LeVota girls themselves - that both Madeline and Audrey became involved and eventually elected as STUCO officers on their own volition. It is simply in their natures to represent their fellow classmates at THS by planning and coordinating fun activities for the entire student body.
“It was never like ‘you’re going to do this,’” said Sen. LeVota. “They both just have a desire to serve their classmates.”
He said that he served as class president at Truman in 1986. That experience paved the way for him to pursue a future in politics.
“It was a great experience to help make school more fun,” he said. “It put me on the path to support my community and serve my constitutents.” He also was influenced by his father, who previously served on the Independence City Council.
“They (Madeline and Audrey) were elected for next year’s class officers because of their involvement, dedication and pride for Truman,” wrote Zarrillo, “not because of their dad or uncle.”
Madeline and Audrey - who is also Paul LeVota’s goddaughter - say the student council’s primary functions are to plan student activities and events, like assemblies, banquets or canned food drives, as well as being a liaison between Truman’s student body and faculty. Madeline presides over STUCO meetings and coordinates the group’s projects, while Audrey leads on planning events with a more social aspect, such as prom and other school dances. The two juniors have been involved in their school’s student council since their freshman years.
“Both are highly involved,” wrote Zarrillo. “This year was our 50th anniversary and Maddie (Madeline) had a big part in our Homecoming parade. Audrey is also a team player. She stepped up to help with Courtwarming this year for the junior class.”
She added that Madeline is “very detailed and organized” and Audrey “brings the humor and has a big heart.”
The two cousins credit their high levels of initiative to being exposed to their fathers’ community involvement growing up. Audrey’s father, Steve LeVota, who is Paul LeVota’s twin brother, serves the city of Lake Tapawingo, said Paul.
“We (Madeline and Audrey) used to put out signs during elections,” said Audrey. “We would drive in parades. It made us interested in wanting to represent people.”
“It’s a good feeling when people look up to you,” said Madeline. “I like to help others and plan events. The family tradition is to be outgoing and social.”
But despite their dedication and leadership at THS, the two LeVotas have different plans after high school graduation. Madeline says she wants to pursue event planning in college, while Audrey wants to major in film.
“The thing I remember telling them was that public service is a really valuable thing to do,” Sen. LeVota said. “I want them to pursue what they’re passionate about. I’ll be proud no matter what they do.”