Two cousins from Hollister got the surprise of their life
recently while in the nation’s capital with a group of more than 50
Latino students at the annual League of United Latin American
Two cousins from Hollister got the surprise of their life recently while in the nation’s capital with a group of more than 50 Latino students at the annual League of United Latin American Citizens convention.
San Benito High School seniors Julie Cortez and Nancy Rios were standing outside the front gate at the White House as President Bush and his wife were boarding the Marine One helicopter to attend a fundraiser. The president’s attention was drawn to the group of LULAC students outside the gate, and he and the first lady walked over to say hello.
Cortez said of all the experiences at the convention in Washington Oct. 3-6 – including talking with members of Congress about important issues facing Latino youth in America – meeting the president was the most memorable.
Aside from being thrust into a fast-paced, business-like atmosphere, Cortez and Rios – who had never traveled far beyond California – said they met other LULAC students from all throughout the nation.
LULAC, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the country, strives to advance economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence and health of Hispanic Americans. There are over 700 LULAC councils in the U.S.
Each year, LULAC national board members, along with over 50 students from local branches of the organization, meet with members of Congress and the president at the conference.
The students chose President Bush’s recent “No Child Left Behind Act” as the 2002 theme. Aside from filling out an application and meeting high academic standards, LULAC required all applicants to write an essay about educational equality.
This year’s theme especially resonated with Cortez.
“My parents never had opportunities for education,” she said.
Fifty students from the U.S., including seven from California, attended the conference. In the past seven years, 11 students from Hollister have attended the conferences, according to Mickie Luna, LULAC state director.
While the youth members took part in their own activities, adult members – including Luna – held meetings with members of Congress and the president about the pressing issues facing Latino Americans.
Exposed to such a plethora of first-time experiences and compelling adventures, Rios expressed amazement over the nuances of life in the Beltway. For instance, she said she couldn’t believe the complexity of Washington’s transportation system and said riding the subway was the trip’s most interesting experience.
Cortez and Rios were particularly in awe of the city’s business-like attitude. And both said it seemed like everyone in Washington dressed up.
“Everybody was always in their suits,” Rios said.
On their itinerary were also numerous meetings and Washington landmarks. The group began the weekend by hosting a press conference where students controlled the agenda and asked questions of members of Congress. They also toured the Pentagon, the White House and other historic sites.
But for a couple of girls from Hollister, the weekend meant more than fancy dressing and meeting world leaders. They experienced a completely different perspective on life.
“It exceeded all expectations,” Rios said.