fort, LULAC

Pictured above, from left: Maria Hernandez and Luna Garcia, two Fort Vancouver High School seniors selected to attend a prestigious youth-leadership conference

Fort Vancouver High School seniors Luna Garcia and Maria Hernandez were selected to represent the Pacific Northwest at the Washington Youth Leadership Seminar in late September 2016. Only 50 students from across the country were invited to participate, based upon their academic performance, community and volunteer involvement and leadership qualities.

At the four-day seminar, held in Washington, D.C., Garcia and Hernandez received leadership and advocacy training with other young leaders, as well as met with members of Congress and leaders and decision-makers from the public and private sectors. This year’s seminar focused on civic engagement among young adults and the then-upcoming election. The participants also got a chance to visit local landmarks, including the White House. “Everything we did was educational. We were learning a lot while doing fun things,” said Garcia.

Both agreed that the national connections they gained were invaluable. Said Garcia, “We got to learn how different states are. That was the coolest part. We had people from Boston, Kansas, Boston, Puerto Rico, everywhere.”

“It’s really great to meet people from all over the country,” Hernandez added. “And knowing you have people you can count on.”

The seminar is organized by LULAC National Educational Service Centers, the nonprofit educational branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a group in whose local youth chapter both students are involved at Fort. Hernandez is the Pacific Northwest vice president and current president of the school’s LULAC-affiliated Adelante; Garcia is the past president. Both also are active in several other clubs and activities, including Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, Ballet Folklórico, SkillsUSA, soccer and wrestling.

Said Hernandez, who plans to enter the Navy after graduation and eventually pursue a career involving art, immigration and education, “LULAC is one of the most outspoken clubs to the Latino community. We have a lot of voice, and we encourage kids to advocate in their community.”

Garcia added, “We also help them out in school, teach life skills and hold workshops.” After high school, she hopes to attend Washington State University in Pullman to study pre-med or engineering.

“I was not really involved in school until I joined LULAC,” said Hernandez. “After I saw all these professionals, I was like, ‘I want to be someone.’ It got me motivated.”