GRANDVIEW - While most young people are eagerly awaiting the start of the new school year, Presidential Classroom Scholar Ashley Lara of Grandview is eagerly watching the presidential campaign between President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Even though she isn't yet old enough to vote, Lara has an intense interest in this year's presidential race.
"No matter who wins, I have plans to attend the Presidential inauguration," said the enthusiastic teenager.
This past summer Lara, a Grandview High School junior, toured Washington D.C. as a participant in the Presidential Classroom Scholars Program. The program introduces American teens to the inner workings of the federal government, allowing them to examine how current issues affect public policy, she explained.
As a Presidential Classroom Scholar, Lara had an opportunity to meet national leaders and to learn about careers in public service.
"I had a wonderful time in Washington, D.C.," she said.
Lara spent seven days in the nation's capital, where she not only experienced the hustle of life in the District of Columbia, she also had an opportunity to tour a number of national monuments, including the Washington Memorial.
"We had an extremely busy schedule, attending lots of seminars and meeting lots of people, such as Ralph Nader," she said.
"We also had the chance to sit in on a Senate hearing, tour the White House and to attend a CIA briefing," Lara added.
As a part of the Washington D.C. experience, Lara met with Washington state representatives. and sat on the House floor where the inaugurations are held.
No trip to the nation's capital would be complete without a tour of the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, Ford Theater and the Lincoln Memorial, all sites the Grandview teenager visited during her July visit to the city.
Lara said one of the highlights of the trip was celebrating the Fourth of July at Fort McNair overlooking the Potomac River. She also watched the changing of the guard and the laying of a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
"We did so many things and I am very grateful to all the people and different organizations that sponsored my Washington D.C. trip," she said. "Overall, it was everything I expected, and so much more," she said.
"I made a lot of close friends from across the nation and hope to see some of them again in January when I return to witness the swearing in of our next president," she added.
"I'm very excited about the inauguration in January," she said, noting she is now working to raise money for her travel expenses.
Saying she admires President Bush, she will support whoever wins the November election.
"Personally, I prefer the Bush-Cheney ticket," she said. "I admire Bush. I believe he has stayed true to is beliefs and has a strong moral character," Lara said.
Lara's past year was also highlighted by her selection to star in a series of educational videos, which will be used by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction as a part of its "Student Engagement Project."
Lara's father, Sabio Lara, said the videos are directed at high school students and their parents, explaining the importance of standardized testing, senior cumulative projects and other issues facing today's students.
"Ashley was chosen for the video as a result of a presentation she made in March as a nominee to be a junior representative to the State Board of Education," he explained.
While she was one of five finalists for the spot, she didn't land the state board position.
"She was later contacted and asked if she would be interested in working on the video project," he added.
"It was very interesting working on the video and I met a lot of great people," she said.
Lara said the video will be distributed to schools throughout the state this school year.
"It's been a fun year," said the poised, young woman. "I'm looking forward to what this next year will bring," she smiled.