January 18, 2009

Locals at Inauguration: Solid students = Great Opportunities

A good message to young students everywhere: Do well in school, participate in extracurriculars and build your leadership skills, and good things can happen.

Now, that might be pretty funadamental stuff. We know there are thousands in the Northern San Joaquin Valley doing just that. But a good example of the results of all of that are Central Catholic High School students Jesus Diaz and Maddie O’Brien, who are both in Washington, D.C., thanks to their participation in two of a number of national leadership programs.

Both secured tickets to the big event because of their alumni status in Presidential Classroom and People to People, two programs that help in affording students opportunities to build leadership and educational skills through academic programs, travel and networking with other sharp students around the world.

O’Brien, a freshman, began with People to People as a seventh-grader, and has traveled to Europe twice, learning about different cultures and people.

When she got an invite to the inauguration, she jumped at the chance. She was a big fan of Obama’s even before he became the Democratic candidate.

“I liked his stance on the issues,” she said. “He’s against the war and taxes would go down for my family,” she said.

Meanwhile, Diaz has been involved with Presidential Classroom, a national program that helps prepare outstanding high school students to become leaders in public service and private enterprise.

Diaz, already has been accepted to the Loyola of Chicago, the University of the Pacific and the University of Portland, has an interview with Yale, and likely Harvard next week, and is hoping to hear from Stanford, Cornell, Georgetown and the University of Chicago.

He got an invitation to the inaugural, but had to raise his own funds to go. Stepping forward to help defray the costs were local Kiwanis, Rotary and American Legion clubs, along with Crows Landing Road of Stanislaus County Comerciantes Unidos.

“I was a Hillary (Clinton) guy because I know what she’s done already and she has a lot of experience ... that rumor that while her husband was the president, she was running the nation,” Diaz said.

He said when Clinton lost the nomination, he wasn’t enamored with Obama. But after some independent research, he ended up liking Obama more than Clinton, and actually volunteered to help lcoally with his campaign.

He likes how Obama touches people from “all sides of the railroads,” and calls him the most energetic politician he’s ever seen.

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