Tuesday, October 21, 2003
A politically active Hood River teen will soon head off to Washington, D.C., for a briefing on current issues by top government leaders.
Mayra Ledesma, 16, sets out on her diplomatic mission next Tuesday with the full backing of her family, community sponsors and the staff of the Hood River Valley High School.
“Mayra is just such an exceptional young lady, she always pushes herself to the best of her abilities and this is just such a well-earned privilege and opportunity for her,” said Principal Steve Fisk.
The high school junior will join 349 other outstanding scholars at the National Young Leaders Conference. For six days, Ledesma and her peers from across the United States will meet with key elected officials, political appointees, newsmakers, and members of the global community. Highlights of past conferences have included welcoming remarks from the floor of the U.S. House and a panel discussion with prominent journalists at the National Press Club. In addition, meetings have been scheduled with senators and representatives, or appointed staff members, to discuss important issues facing the nation.
“I actually think that politics are pretty exciting and it will be cool to meet all of these people. I will probably learn a lot and I might even decide to become a politician someday,” said Ledesma, the daughter of Alfonso and Maria Ledesma of Odell.
Although her greatest hope is to personally meet President George W. Bush, Ledesma said she will be satisfied just to view the White House. Her second wish is already on the agenda: observing the House and Senate members in their decision-making roles.
“I am very excited, I just wanted to jump up and down when I heard the news that I would be going there,” she said.
Fisk said Ledesma’s trip was financed, in part, by the generosity of several community organizations, including the Tractor Coalition, Republican Party and Hood River County Farm Bureau. He said the school is once again appreciative of the extra effort made by citizens to provide an experience that will “open Mayra’s eyes up to the whole world out there.”
“We are all part of something greater than ourselves and we are all actively trying to do what’s best for kids,” he said.
To help Ledesma and her fellow students build their leadership skills, several role-playing scenarios are planned by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, which organizes the conference. In one activity titled “If I were President,” the teens act as the president and cabinet members responding to an international crisis. Ledesma and her peers will also participate in “Testing the Constitution,” in which they actually examine Supreme Court cases. The conference will culminate with the “Model Congress,” an event that requires the young scholars to assume the role of U.S. Representatives and debate, amend and vote on proposed mock legislation.
“The National Leader’s Conference positions each of these students as colleagues in whose hands the country rests,” said Mike Lasday, CYLC executive director.
Ledesma was selected to journey to the national’s capital because of her scholastic performance and involvement in both student government and outreach activities. She maintains a 3.95 grade point average and serves on the executive council for the junior class, Chamber Leaders for Tomorrow, Inspiration Circle, Access to Student Assistance Program In Reach of Everyone (ASPIRE), and MECHA, which when translated means Chicano Student Movement from Atzlan, a region that includes Mexico and southwestern United States.
“One of the things that makes her such a pleasure to have in class is that her focus isn’t on her grades, her grades are a result of her strong interest in learning — she is just an outstanding person,” said Oriol Sole-Costa, Ledesma’s Spanish teacher.
CYLC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization. Founded in 1985, the council is committed to fostering and inspiring young people to achieve their full leadership potential. More than 400 members of the U.S. Congress serve on the CYLC Honorary Congressional Board of Advisers. In addition, more than 40 embassies participate in the Council’s Honor Board of Embassies.