The concept of leadership is construed in many ways.
A leader can be described as expressive, charismatic or, in some cases, bossy or autocratic. But none of these describes Kialynn Palpant, a senior at Oaks Classical Christian Academy, who would rather delve into a well-written book in the corner than lead a crowd.
“Some people have the bravado, but she’s going to be a behind-the-scenes type of leader,” said Ben Palpant, Kialynn’s father. “I think people love that; they are loyal to her.”
On the surface, Kialynn Palpant is an intellectual with a knack for the arts. She has taken after her father, an English teacher at the Oaks and published author, with her passion for writing poetry and literature. She just completed a historical fiction novel on the French Huguenots in the 1500s, along with several poems.
“I think she has surpassed me as far as her skill already,” Ben Palpant said. “She’s just a remarkable poet and writer.”
He describes Kialynn Palpant as a “servant leader” and someone with an insatiable thirst to lead and help others. Despite her quiet disposition, she hasn’t balked when her leadership is needed.
When Palpant was 9 years old, her father’s body suddenly began to shut down. Feeding himself, reading or even walking was impossible. Basic mental functions disappeared overnight.
Medical professionals haven’t coined a name for Ben Palpant’s collection of symptoms, but he said it was comparable to Parkinson’s. Essential tremors were common and comprehending even a children’s book was impossible during the height of it all.
With her mother, Kristen, devoting most of her time to care for Ben, Kialynn, the oldest of four siblings, was relied on to run the home.
“She obviously had to take care of things like dinner and clean-up and some of the basic chores that her mother and I would have done,” Ben Palpant said. “I think it’s made her very unflappable.”
Those health problems made Kialynn Palpant close with her siblings, and as the oldest, the leader of the posse. It wasn’t uncommon for her to organize kids-only meetings or attempt to pool their savings to help someone in need.
“It comes with a lot responsibility,” she said of being a role model to her siblings. “They come to me with lots of problems that they have in school and things like that, and it’s really cool to help them like that and push them and encourage them to do better things.”
Not only is Palpant a mentor to her siblings, but to elementary and middle school students at the Oaks as well. Emily Woodroof, a rhetoric and philosophy teacher at the school, said it’s not uncommon to see her talking to or having lunch with younger students.
“She goes out of her way to mentor younger kids at the Oaks,” Woodroof said. “She’s one of those people that are just effortlessly wise, but also kind and encouraging. There are a number of eighth-grade students that just follow her around.”
Palpant hopes to attend George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, next year. Leaving behind her family and the Oaks community will be difficult, but like her father said, she’s unflappable.
“I think she’s one of those kids that more kids should emulate,” he said. “She’s a diamond that’s kind of hidden, and her generation needs folks like her for sure.”
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