Lexie Penwell – “Moema” (2013)

And now I would like to ask Lexie Penwell to come forward.

Lexie came to join us in 2009.  I thought at the time we should nickname her sparkles because in addition to her blond hair and perky personality, she loved sparkly things, whether on her clothing or her eyes.

She also loved the crew.  One common denominator of youth leaders, I have found, is that they get active and involved with the organization they are leading.  And she has.

Not only has she been a regular for service and regular trips, Lexie also went on our first Appalachian Trail trip.  She completed Kodiak training and then went on to become a Kodiak instructor.  She served as the chief youth officer for our last trip to Florida Sea Base and she will go back there with us next summer.

The crew has noticed her activity.  She was elected twice as vice president of program, a demanding job as anyone who has ever held that post knows. And she was elected president last year.

And in the process of all that leadership, I think she has learned some things.  Her experiences, especially as president, brought her some toughness that you don’t normally see from this kind lady.  I remember at the waterfall trip, which produced all sorts of drama and had about 30 youth going, a challenge for the most seasoned president, Lexie had to deal with a situation at the end.

Cleaning up is not the favorite job of teenagers and Monday morning, the crew slowly and painfully packed up and trudged up the long hill to the cars.  But a group had left their campsite a mess, a group that included some of the older crew members, including our first vice president.  She was not happy and let them know that and sent them back down the hill to clean up.  That wasn’t a pleasant moment for her but leadership isn’t always pleasant.  And she grew a lot that weekend.

Of course, Venturing has been filled with very fun experiences for her, especially those on the water.   Lexie is a lake rat.  I don’t mean that in a mean way.  She’s just grown up near Lake Murray and has spent her childhood learning how to sail.  So she jumped at the idea of going to Sea Base and sailing around the Florida Keys.  And she, more than the rest of us, knew what she was doing when she stood behind the boat’s wheel.  She also loved all the underwater creatures and the dolphins.  So much so that she will return with us next summer.

While she has done all this leadership with the crew, her chief focus has been academics.  Lexie has completed the STEM program, a challenging math and science program.  Last year, she was one of 84 students in the nation to be invited to NASA in Houston to spend a week planning a mock space mission to Mars. This fall she will begin her studies at the University of South Carolina Honors College.

When it came to name her, it wasn’t very hard. Because one name seemed to get at her essence, a quality I hope she will never change. And in explaining her name I am reminded of a story about her from last year.

I told you all she was an instructor for Kodiak in 2011.  That was an experiment for us in the way we handled the finances that year.  Both of the instructors, Lexie and Tyler Johnson, were paid.  Or were supposed to be, by the Council.  But months dragged on and no checks were sent.  I didn’t realize it until Lexie’s mom told me.  And in the process of discussing this, she said Lexie didn’t care so much about the money and that if there was only enough for one check, to send it to Tyler, that he would need it for college.

That is classic Lexie.  She cares about others before herself, is willing to sacrifice and not complain.  And the smile doesn’t leave her face.  She is probably the nicest human being I have ever met.  And it has been an absolute pleasure having her in the crew for four years. The Native Americans had a name for that.  So tonight Lexie, it is my honor to bestow upon you the Tupi name Moema, which means “Sweet.”


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