While representing their state at a national education summit, Mesa-based sophomores Jasmine Betancourt and Yaqub Elmi found a little inspiration as they complete their high-school years.
Betancourt, who attends Mesa High, and Elmi, who hails from Red Mountain, attended the “Education Nation” Summit in New York City last week, and were two of five students from Arizona to attend the event.
“It was such an honor,” Elmi said.
They were able to attend the event due to their participation with the Be a Leader Foundation, which helps guide students starting in middle school and into their post-secondary careers and connects with Mesa, Phoenix and Tolleson students. Betancourt is the president of her school’s program, while Elmi serves as the club’s co-president at Red Mountain.
As a result of their participation in the program, as well as a willingness to volunteer for an out-of-state excursion, Betancourt and Elmi took the trip to the forum hosted by the New York Public Library. At the event, the Mesa residents attended several panels that dealt with topics like technology, hunger, Common Core standards and other issues tied to education.
“It was a lot of good perspective,” Betancourt said.
The panels also gave the two a venue to offer their respective opinions on education issues to an audience composed of many New York students and from other states.
Of the panels, the one Betancourt and Elmi said affected them the most centered on overcoming adversity to pursue an education and eventually a career. Elmi said he was “so, so inspired” by the people who spoke during the panel, and both found the stories about finding an education while coping with the detriments of poverty relatable.
“It really shows how much you have; it makes you appreciate how lucky you are,” Betancourt said.
Betancourt also drew inspiration from her visit to Columbia University, which she wants to attend after graduating high school.
That ties into one of the other benefits of the summit, as the two students had the chance to visit a few New York City landmarks during their stay. A highlight outside of Columbia for Betancourt was a visit to Central Park, which she said was a combination of relaxing and beautiful.
Both enjoyed the drive over the Manhattan Bridge on a double-decker bus that gave them what she described as a “breathtaking” view of the city and another famous landmark: the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I think the New York trip was so worthwhile; I’ve never had so much fun before,” Elmi said.
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