When three East Valley high school students take high office at their schools in August, they’ll have some big time experience under their belts.
Today, Daniel Ash, Uven Chong and Cecile Dinh begin a weeklong leadership boot camp in the shadow of the nation’s Capitol.
The teens, all heading into their senior year, will represent Arizona at Boys Nation and Girls Nation, two American Legion-sponsored programs in which students become lawmakers pushing bills through a mock U.S. Senate.
Each of the 48 states that participate in the Legion’s Boys and Girls State program sends students to the national conference.
Ash said Boys Nation’s emphasis on protocol will be useful to him as president of his Mesa High School Student Council.
"Our adviser wants us to really follow parliamentary procedure this year, so this will really be helpful," he said.
Ash has some additional experience with parliamentary procedure, as a member of Mesa’s Mayor’s Youth Committee. Dinh also is on that committee.
Dinh, 17, said life as a Girls Nation senator likely will be most useful to her in dealing with her peers during her first time as treasurer on Mesa’s Skyline High School Student Council.
"I’ll be able to give people support, and it’ll definitely help my listening skills," she said.
At Girls Nation, she will co-sponsor a bill that would hold foster parents more accountable for the fate of the children under their care.
Chong, who will turn 18 while he’s at Boys Nation and goes to Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee Foothills where he’ll be Student Council president, was born in Malaysia.
He moved with his family to the United States at age 8, and fell in love with the opportunities offered by the American way of government as a Boy Scout.
"I’d like to be president of the United States, but I can’t because I wasn’t born here," he said. "There are ways around that, I could become a senator and try to get a bill through . . ."
His bill, inspired by an Atlantic Monthly article, will propose a way for filling congressional seats in case the House and Senate are decimated in a catastrophic attack.
Separate senates will convene for Boys and Girls Nation in Washington, D.C.-area universities, but participants will see some real power brokers, including President Bush, barring scheduling conflicts.