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Local students to attend national conventions

Six south Charlotte students will have the chance of a lifetime later this month in Florida and then again in September right here at home when they’ll experience firsthand pivotal moments in this election season.

The Echo Foundation, an organization that equips individuals with moral and intellectual tools necessary to create positive change in local and global communities, is bringing together competitively chosen high school students from across Charlotte to explore civic engagement and details of American politics through “Footsteps Global Initiative: Youth Engage!” This initiative, which is in collaboration with local civic nonprofit GenerationNation, embraces the 2012 presidential campaigns and election by offering students a front-row seat at the Republican National Convention, Aug. 27 through 30 in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention, Sept. 3 through 6, in Charlotte.

Twenty-seven students applied for the program, submitting essays on the democratic process and brainstorming ways to engage other students. Only eight students were chosen for the program – six from south Charlotte, including Mijal Bucay and Arjun Gupta from Providence High School, Brenden Carol from South Mecklenburg High School, Desirae Kindley from East Mecklenburg High School, Yeonsoo Sara Lee from Myers Park High School and Sarah Whitmore from Charlotte Latin School.

Arjun, a senior at Providence, said he heard about the program through closed-circuit television at his school.

“The reason I wanted to do it? The better question is why wouldn’t you want to do it?” he said. “All eyes are going to be on Charlotte; all the big names are going to convene on Charlotte for a couple of days. I just thought it would be a fascinating opportunity to see what goes into making our country run and see how they do it.”

Arjun said all the details for the events are still being ironed out, although he hopes to have some interaction with the delegates.

“Echo is setting up convention-oriented opportunities, but we’re not completely sure about all of the engagements,” he said.

Arjun said experiencing the DNC at home is definitely exciting, but he’s just as excited to head south and see what the Republicans are all about, as well.

“It will be interesting to see the Republican perspective of it after they went through such a crazy nomination season,” he said. “One of the criticisms of Mitt Romney is that he’s not great at exciting people. It will be fascinating to see the response down there.”

For Brenden, a senior at South Mecklenburg High, experiencing the conventions is somewhat of a dream come true. The 17-year-old recently returned from an internship on Capitol Hill where he worked in Rep. Sue Myrick’s office.

“I love politics – it’s my greatest passion – I always have,” Brenden said.

He’s just excited to be in the presence of the nation’s leaders, he said.

“Going to hear Obama’s speech and being able to see everything going on and being in the presence of such an important thing. These decisions are gong to be affecting your life, the life of your children and basically everyone else,” he said.

Mijal, a senior at Providence, said her interests in public policy helped draw her to participate in the Echo Foundation’s program; a program that makes it accessible for students to be at the forefront of their community.

“Politics and what’s going on in the world will affect you, whether you are apathetic to it or not,” Mijal said. “I think its really important for students to educate themselves and make it a life-long process and to really get involved and participate in the community whenever they can.”

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