Elaina “Lanie” Keast, the second Lake County freshman to receive the “Today’s Achievers, Tomorrow’s Leaders” award, might be considered a “Renaissance girl.” Her interests, passions and abilities integrate a wide range of fields such as politics, engineering and sports. Combining these skills with a knack for writing, volunteering, organizing, and standing up for fellow students who are bullied bodes well for her future of helping her country and community.
Keast’s first political organizing effort grew as a response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three staff members were killed, and another 17 injured. Keast worked with the principal to participate with the national school walkout in protest of gun violence. This issue is one of the things she cares most strongly about.
“I thought I would just do this with a few friends,” Keast said. But in the end, about half of the middle school student body, and many high school students, came together in the high school bleachers for 17 minutes of silence.
A naturally “shy” person, it wasn’t easy doing something so public.
“It was really out of my comfort zone,” she said, but she showed she is willing to stretch out of that zone for something that matters deeply to her.
Still in middle school, Keast joined the Governor and First Lady Youth Leadership Council, working to help address the issue of hunger in her community. Last year, she organized a dance which ended up contributing over 200 pounds of food to the food bank. She has continued with the council this year, along with fellow Bulldog Brynn Pule. She is looking to assemble food packages for the food bank again.
Working to address the hunger issue has opened Keast’s eyes to other opportunities to get involved with government. She watches political candidate debates, and emails Montana’s congressional members to express her opinions. She says she is not necessarily thinking about running for office in the future but wants to get at least a minor in political science, helping her to be effective working in the field.
It’s not just politics that captivates Keast’s interest. She is one of two girls in an engineering class in high school, and is part of a robotics team, made up of all freshman girls, competing for the NASA ROADS on Mars challenge. Teams follow the Mars 2020 rover launch, as they take on challenges in engineering, programming, and analysis of biological signatures and geologic features. There are three challenges at the school level, which they send in; the St. Ignatius team won the first one so far. In April, they will attend a meet in Helena where their robot will compete to handle several challenges related to a Mars Rover mission. Top teams from across the country will win a trip to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Mars 2020.
Keast travels with the basketball teams, keeping stats for JV and recording varsity games. She is an avid athlete herself, playing volleyball, softball and tennis. Among all of this, she squeezes time in for personal pursuits such as reading and drawing, and community and church volunteer service.
“She’s a proven student leader who’s [a] fighter for not only her future, but for the future of her friends and family,” Principal Shawn Hendrickson wrote in nominating Keast for the TATL award. “Her contributions to our school and community through volunteer, community service, and other initiatives are many for someone so young.”
The TATL award, sponsored by Kalispell Regional Healthcare and the Lake County Leader, includes a $250 donation to a school club or activity. Lanie hopes to use it to help take the ROADS team to the Girls for a Change Summit in Bozeman this coming weekend.