The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.

Today’s Q&A feature is Krystian Leonard, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization called Shining S.C.A.R.S. It stands for finding strength, building courage for self-acceptance to rise above the stigma. Overcoming stigmas related to all scars is at the heart of this unique organization. The passion behind Shining S.C.A.R.S. stems from Krystian’s own personal battle and experiences resulting from visible scars beginning at the age of 4. Her surgeries left behind several large scars and she endured first-hand the trials and self-esteem issues associated with taunts and bullying because of those scars. Krystian was called names and isolated from her peers and the worst part of her bullying came from the feeling that she could never be beautiful. Her nonprofit works to gather funding to provide her children’s book Shining Scars, to children’s hospitals and recovery centers treating patients relating to burns, cleft palate, spina bifida and cancer recovery. By creating a positive and character building organization, it is Krystian’s goal to build an informative community aiding in the healing process.  Sharing her vision and mission for Shining S.C.A.R.S., Krystian has been a featured speaker at TEDx Boca Raton, Contagious Optimism Live and Next Gen Summit. She has co-authored for the best-selling motivational books, 10 Habits of Truly Optimistic People, and The Better Business Book. Krystian and Shining S.C.A.R.S have been featured in the book, Who I Am: American Scar Stories, by Jenny Cutler Lopez. Krystian is also a trained Channel Kindness Reporter for Lady Gaga’s nonprofit Born This Way Foundation. As one of 50 youth reporters it is the mission of the organization to highlight stories of kindness, working together to build a kinder and braver world.  She was also selected as one of West Virginia State Journal’s 2018 Next Gen 40 Under 40. We caught up with Krystian to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to future leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

When I began my nonprofit Shining S.C.A.R.S., I was a freshman in High School, and I wanted to make a difference for other children and teens that are faced with the stigma of their scars. Being President of a nonprofit while in school has it’s challenges, but the rewards are endless and have given me the most meaningful experiences I could wish for.

Who inspired you to get involved?

I was inspired at age 10, when Miss West Virginia 2006 came to my elementary school, and told us we could be anything we wanted to be if we believed in ourselves. We could even be a ‘Miss West Virginia’. She was my first motivational speaker, and has truly impacted my path in a very positive way.

How do you define a leader?

I define a leader as someone who stands up for others.

What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders ?

I recently served as a Channel Kindness Reporter for Born This Way Foundation, and still work to share stories of kindness in my local community. Anyone can apply at www.channelkindness.com.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

My advice to anyone who wants to make a difference is to start volunteering. By embracing the nonprofits in your community, you will understand the vital support roles that they have on individual lives. Building strong communities is more important now than it has ever been.