MOSES LAKE — Joshua Cooper has always known a little something about honor, discipline, faith and courage. It’s the way he was raised.
But the Moses Lake 17-year-old is taking this leadership role to a whole new level. Cooper, who is home-schooled, but participates in Moses Lake High School cross country/track and field and theatere, became the first recipient in the Northwest District (Washington and Northern Idaho) to earn the coveted “Trail of the Saber” National Leadership Award from the Northwest Junior Leadership Development Academy. With his hard work, he also earned the Gold Medal of Achievement through the Royal Rangers program.
The Northwest Junior Leadership Development Academy is an arm of the Royal Rangers mentoring program that takes boys interested in becoming servant leaders in life and mentors them through five summer camps to develop leadership and outdoor skills. The camps teach self-responsibility and self-reliance, as well as the concept of teamwork and winning or losing as a team.
“The Trail of the Sabre is the completion of five, one-year summer camps, which I started when I was in seventh grade,” said Cooper, who was the Chiefs’ No. 2 runner in the boys varsity race at the Moses Lake Invite to open the season.
He just smiled at the thought of his first impressions as a 13-year-old to the young man who came out the other side with a greater sense of pride and self reliance.
“The first camp was basically a bunch of teenage boys. They gave us a framework of how to work within safety parameters, gave us instruction, then said. ‘You (and your team) are responsible for everything,’” he said.
The Royal Rangers program is an activity-based, small group church ministry for boys and young men in grades K-12. The mission is to evangelize, equip and empower the next generation of men and lifelong servant leaders, to provide a character formation and leadership development.
“I learned how to be a proper leader and what circumstances you can be tough and what circumstances you need to be helpful,” he said. “Each camp set up something new for the next year. I learned a variety of things, anything from water purification to catching fish out in the wild without any gear. I learned first aid and CPR to woodland skills. I learned how to work hard and develop the dedication to the principles of leadership.”
Cooper has also been the vice chair of Hope for Haiti Moses Lake (a group of local teens that raised over $8,000 to help rebuild after Hurricane Matthew last October) and served at the Moses Lake Food Bank each of the last four Thanksgiving distribution days. He’s served as a page in the Washington State House of Representatives, as well as serving in the Children’s Ministries department and on the tech crew at his church.
Part of this education is being active in the community, and a large part is being active in the school. Despite being home-schooled, Cooper is the captain of the cross country team and runs distance races for the track team. In the theater, he played Tumnus in the Moses Lake High School production “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
“I’ve always enjoyed pushing myself to the limit, so I enjoyed moving on to the next stage every year,” Cooper said. “It creates a sense of pride in a job well done and creates an environment of teamwork. I think it’s important knowing you can work together with someone for the good of all.
“It’s a lot like what we’re doing on the cross country team. We all know the pain of pushing ourselves whether you’re the top runner or the next guy up.”
Joshua Cooper has dedicated himself to being the next man up in life, and making the world around him a better place.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.