Fire and Fuzzies

Launch Leadership presents the Ron Joekel Award to an educator who is a champion of youth leadership development in the classroom and community. It was established in 2015 and awarded at Fire and Fuzzies, Launch's annual fundraising gala. 

The award is named for Ron Joekel, a life-long educator serving on the faculty at UNL for 42 years as professor chair and associate dean of the Teachers College. Ron is a pioneer in youth leadership development and student council development. Ron served as the Nebraska Association of Student Council’s executive director for 20 years and was instrumental in growing the organization as well as Summer Leadership Workshop. He also was the Executive Director when our Volunteer Staff was formed trusting Rick Alloway, Lilly Coniglio and Stu Lehr to put on the first-volunteer run Workshop. Ron traveled the country putting on leadership workshops and helped found the National Association of Workshop Directors. In addition, Ron served as the national president of Phi Delta Kappa and served on the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators.

2017 Recipient - Allysa Diehl

Our winner tonight is a 2009 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and began her education career that year at Schoo Middle High School in Lincoln, which coincidentally was the same year that the school opened its doors. She taught eighth grade English and was the student council advisor. Allysa later earned her master's degree from Doane University. She later developed a brand-new leadership class for eighth-grade students.

Allysa was nominated by one of her former students, Kiley Kahler. In her nomination, Kiley said Allysa pushed her to reach her full potential as a student, leader, and community member. Kiley wrote that she has never met a more focused, dedicated, and encouraging teacher. She said she is fortunate enough to get to call this educator, inspirer, and woman empowerer her mentor.

Schoo Middle School principal Bill Schulenberg wrote that Allysa has provided students with the guidance they need to believe in themselves as leaders in the school and has coached them along the way to use their developing skills to lead the school in many activities.

Because of her work in the classroom to legitimize leadership in education Launch would like to recognize Allysa Diehl as the 2017 recipient of this award for championing youth leadership development.

2016 Recipient - Jeff Wiles

Jeff Wiles is a 1985 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and began his education career that year at Plattsmouth High School as a social science teacher and coach. He later became the school’s Activities Director in 1999 and was named as the Plattsmouth principal in June of 2005. He was also Plattsmouth’s student council advisor, served on the Plattsmouth Park Board, was the NASC executive director, and served on the Nebraska Coaches Association advisory board for track & field.

Two people nominated Mr. Wiles for the award, and perhaps by coincidence, but likely not, both of the nominators recently started their teaching careers.

One of the nominators said Jeff pushed students to lead and find success not just in student council, but in school and sports too. He continues to use his knowledge and passion to develop youth leadership at Plattsmouth High School.

The other nominator said Mr. Wiles is one who goes above and beyond in making every student who walks through his school doors find something they are good at. He helps that student turn it into something they are great at. He is one who truly wants what is best for his students while helping them realize their potential along the way.

Because of his work in the classroom to legitimize leadership in education Launch would like to recognize Jeff Wiles as the 2016 recipient of this award for championing youth leadership development.

2015 Recipient - Brent Toalson

Brent Toalson is a 1982 graduate of Lincoln Southeast High School. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from UNL and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Doane College. He student taught at Lincoln Southeast and then stayed on staff to teach Social Studies and serve as the Student Council Sponsor from 1991-2007. During that time he developed leadership curriculum that allowed students to take a leadership class. He then went on to Lincoln High to work as Associate Principal for five years before returning home to become Lincoln Southeast’s seventh Principal.

Because of his work in the classroom to legitimize leadership in education Launch would like to recognize Brent Toalson as the first recipient of this award for championing youth leadership development.

About Launch Leadership

Launch Leadership, Inc., is a volunteer organization that was founded as the Nebraska Association of Student Councils Volunteer Staff in 1976. Launch was established as a non-profit in 2013. It promotes and develops youth leadership through an annual five-day summer workshop in Wayne, Neb., and dozens of year-round services all over Nebraska. Launch is based in Lincoln, Neb., with more than 200 members throughout the United States.