Youth Leadership Exchange (YLX), Leadership Oklahoma City
|Kathy Williams, chairman of the board for Youth Leadership Exchange, presents an Outstanding Mentor Award to Gus Pekara. Gus was one of 66 Oklahoma mentors selected for recognition during Oklahoma Mentor Day.|
Leadership Oklahoma City has named Dr. Gus Pekara of Oklahoma City as its Youth Leadership Exchange (YLX) outstanding mentor for Oklahoma Mentor Day 2016.
Youth Leadership Exchange is the high-school-age programming arm of Leadership Oklahoma City. Its mission is to empower central Oklahoma youth to become leaders who have a positive influence in their communities. Students complete the program by participating in monthly classes and volunteer service.
Gus has been a mentor for the Youth Leadership Exchange for many years and has served as mentor co-chair, with the responsibility of recruiting other adults to mentor. In addition, he has held many other positions on the YLX board of directors.
“Gus arrives early, is always offering to help in any way he can and volunteers to help clean up at the end of the day,” said Amber Shelton, YXL director. “He picks up his mentee, Dylan, once a month and drives him to class, then takes him home in the afternoons. It seems like a simple task and it can be if that was all he did but Gus really takes the time to get to know his mentees and their family.
"Dylan is the captain of the tennis team at his high school. Gus enjoys tennis as well so it seemed to be a good fit," Amber said. "When Gus noticed that Dylan didn’t have the championship racquet he needed, he took him to pick one out as a gift. Anyone can give a gift, but Gus took the time to get to know Dylan and bought a thoughtful gift that will help him achieve his goals.”
Gus has been described as a mentor who pays attention to detail and encourages others. Last month, he invited the other mentors to join him for breakfast. "He is a great role model not only to his high school students but also to other mentors,” Amber added.
A native of Chicago, Gus attended Eastern Illinois University where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. He later earned a doctorate in education from Oklahoma State University. Gus became a founding faculty member of Oklahoma City Community College where, over a period of 26 years, he served as a professor of mathematics, department chair, dean, and associate vice president. He later served as vice president for instruction at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill. Gus then returned to Oklahoma City as director of the OKC Downtown College. He recently retired from higher education administration and proudly assumed a new title, “Community Service Volunteer.”
Gus’ service to his community began in earnest while a member of Leadership Oklahoma City’s Class XII (1994-95). Since then he has served on the boards of directors or committees for numerous non-profit, civic, and service organizations, including NewView Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Greater Chamber of Commerce, South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Arts Commission, Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, Oklahoma Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Oklahoma Goodwill Industries, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center (Mattoon, Ill.), Salvation Army (Mattoon, Ill.), and Rotary Clubs in both Oklahoma City and Mattoon, Ill.
Gus recently served Leadership Oklahoma City as a board member of Youth Leadership Exchange and as president of the Leadership OKC Alumni Association. He and his wife, Emily, enjoy family, faith, friendships and foreign travel.