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Leaders share lessons learned in life

In his pocket, Don Young carries a symbol of his perseverance.

It’s a facsimile of a million-dollar bill, presented to him by a local bank nearly two years ago.

Brought up in meager surroundings in Valley City, N.D., Young learned early the value of time management, which earned him millions as a developer who brought modern conveniences to Penn Valley years later.



Young, 69, brought his tales of fortune, survival and experience to Nevada Union High School’s Partnership Academy, extolling, with other area business leaders, the virtues of a keen work ethic to a rapt audience of juniors and seniors.

Young staked his fortunes to the clock, knowing that wasting time meant wasting dollars.




“That’s what you should be thinking about,” he said, flipping through a day planner studded with appointments and phone numbers. Time management, he said, makes your ambitions possible.

By the time he was 21, Young said, he became the youngest real estate broker in the San Fernando Valley. When he moved to Penn Valley 27 years ago, he set about building a small commercial empire. He built the Penn Valley Shopping Center, opened a Penn Valley storage business, and parlayed the success of those ventures into a 54-acre ranch where he now spends his days.

For a time, he even served as Penn Valley’s postmaster.

He was honored by a local bank two years ago for having a million dollars in deposits, a cash flow he said has grown at least tenfold because of his shrewd business sense.

He’s also a survivor, having lived for five years with a transplanted heart.

Not bad for a guy who got C’s in school.

The path to success doesn’t require deep pockets or a storybook upbringing, as more than a few of the business professionals who descended on Louise McFadden’s and Gary Krautter’s classes Thursday confirmed. Doctors, dentists, nurses and western Nevada County’s two police chiefs showed up to inform students of the wide world of work awaiting them.

All it really takes, said Shirl Mendonca, an independent financial adviser, is great manners and good English.

“If you’re very respectful, that will go a long way.”

Her own son realized this years ago when he sold temporary tattoos and bubbles as a 6-year-old at the Strawberry Music Festival, approaching thousands of revelers with tact and purpose.

He made hundreds of dollars in one day, just by using the tools his mother taught him.

The Partnership Academy works to give students exposure to the business world and to bring leaders into the classroom, to give them a sense of life after school, McFadden said.

“We are committed to bringing the world of work into the classroom,” she said.

While they may not be ready for the work world, a number of students are eager to start thinking about tomorrow.

“The job I want looks exciting,” said junior Casey Amick, who is exploring forensic science. “I just want it to be something that’s different every day.”

Junior Ryan Stefani said he’s just looking for an edge to get out of town when his high school career ends.

Young looks at this and smiles. It’s been a long while since he rode to school on horseback as a kid, a half-century since he threshed wheat for 50 cents an hour.

Young’s life trajectory, he said, wasn’t immediate or without sacrifice.

“It’s been rewarding,” he said. “It’s not about the dollars. It’s the challenge of getting there.”


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