When she first joined, K’lena Schnack never knew where Key Club might take her. Most recently, it took her to a seat on float number 72 in the nationally televised Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day.
As president of Key Club International, Schnack was invited to ride on the “Soaring with Hope” Kiwanis International float.
Key Club is a student-led version of Kiwanis that offers its members opportunities to learn leadership skills while providing service to others.
“It was really surreal,” she said. “People were cheering for you. It was like, ‘You don’t know me, but you’re interacting with me,’” she said.
Schnack, a senior at Milford High School, and Kaitlin Cirillo, vice president and student at Parsippany High School in Parsippany, New Jersey, rode on the float, along with Kiwanis International 2019-20 President Daniel Vigneron from Howald, Luxembourg, who is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Vielsalm, and his wife, Fabby.
Also on board were the president and vice president of Circle K International, Kiwanis International’s club for college and university students, and several members of Aktion Club, the only volunteer service club for adults of all abilities.
“This is probably my favorite aspect of serving as president of Key Club International—opportunities that allow me to meet and connect with so many of the K-Families, especially Key Clubbers,” Schnack said.
Schnack said riding on the float was an “opportunity to represent the dedication and impact of 250,000 members of Key Club International.”
The float portrayed a giraffe head holding up a turtle to help it fly, with little birds underneath for encouragement.
Schnack said all the floats in this year’s parade were based around a “hope” theme.
“Soaring with Hope” fit for Kiwanis.
“Their whole mission is to help youth take off with their passions and get involved in the community and engage,” she said.
It even smelled good.
“Everything on the float had to be covered in organic material. We had blueberries on our float, and a branch covered in crushed up coffee beans,” Schnack said. “When you first walk into the warehouse (where the floats are assembled), you got the sense of florals, but it wasn’t until every float had their roses on, there was this overwhelming sense of rose.”
Schnack spent the days before the parade in Pasadena attending a luncheon for Kiwanis family members, touring and talking about Key Club.
She volunteered to help put flowers on the float.
“I got to have my own little touch on the float,” she said.
But it didn’t really register with her where she was until the horns began honking at the start of the parade.
“It didn’t actually seem real until I was seated on the float and we were starting to move,” she said.
Cirillo also expressed excitement at the opportunity to represent Key Club, one of the Kiwanis International youth programs, at the Rose Parade.
“I am honored and grateful for this opportunity,” she said in a press release. “I am so excited to represent this wonderful organization that has given me so much.”
Up next, Schnack is headed to San Francisco at the end of January for an international board meeting to plan the international convention, set for July.
After that, she’ll spend the spring—what she called district convention season—traveling almost every weekend to attend Key Club conventions across the U.S. and maybe even around the world.
“I’m very blessed,” she said, adding that Kiwanis membership dues pay for her travel expenses.
Being away from school and home has led Schnack to have better communication skills with her teachers to let them know when she’ll be gone and figure out how to fit in assignments and studies.
“It’s upwards of 15 hours a week to dedicate to this organization,” she said.
Schnack will retire from her position as international president the first week of July.