Never underestimate the power of a poster.
When Troy Ruffin was in middle school he saw a classroom poster featuring the presidents of the United States. Next to President Barack Obama’s photo was a question mark.
“I stopped in front of that for a long time,” Ruffin recalled. “And then I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ ”
It was more than the presidency – Ruffin said he felt the call to serve.
That doesn’t surprise the staff at Mt. Spokane High School.
“He leads from the heart,” said principal Darren Nelson. “He’s genuine, confident and self-assured, but the thing I really appreciate about Troy is that he’s a kind soul. He’s so inclusive, he just folds everyone in.”
Ruffin believes his leadership talents are God-given. An elementary schoolteacher recognized his abilities and pulled him aside.
“She said to use them wisely,” he recalled.
One of the places he’s chosen to lead is on the football field. Ruffin is captain of the Mt. Spokane Wildcats.
“I’ve loved football my whole life,” he said. “When I saw something that needed to be done, I would just do it. If I saw a younger guy struggling, I’d jump in and help him.”
To Ruffin, the beauty of the sport is that it takes 11 men working together like a well-oiled machine to accomplish anything of significance.
“It’s the brotherhood that’s built while playing the sport,” he said. “It really is a second family to me.”
He found yet another family at Mt. Spokane. Ruffin has been part of the DECA club since his freshman year.
“He’s an amazing young man,” said DECA advisor Dave Whitehead. “Troy qualified for State all four years, and qualified for Nationals the past two years.”
When the club brought in U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Whitehead enjoyed watching Ruffin interact with her.
“It was neat to see,” he said. “Troy was willing to step forward and question her, but he did it politely.”
Ruffin said DECA was a great creative outlet for him, and he values the friendships he made through his participation.
But his true passion remains political science and U.S. history.
“I even pressured Mr. Nelson to start an AP Politics class,” Ruffin said, chuckling. “Unfortunately, he said no.”
Nelson said he’s eager to watch this promising student’s potential unfold.
“We’re really proud of him,” he said. “Whatever community Troy lands in, he’s going to make it better than it was before.”
Ruffin remains relentlessly optimistic about the power of passionate people to make change. He’ll be attending Eastern Washington University in the fall, and later plans to pursue law school.
“My story is still in the first chapter,” he said.
As he looks to the future, he’s realistic about the world he’s poised to enter.
“The political climate is not a good one. Current leaders are not in there to serve, but for their own gain,” he said. “But I believe in the American dream. I believe the promise of America can still be fulfilled.”