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D.C. trip learning experience for Sunnyside High School leadership students

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Standing in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial are Sunnyside High School leadership class students (front L-R) Ashley Bridges, Aarika Hernandez, Janelle Mendoza, Melissa Stamshror, Samantha Pearson and Elvira Chiprez; (back L-R) Tristan Abbott, Jasper Rubalcava and Molly Dolan.

Nine students from the leadership class at Sunnyside High School last week traveled to Washington D.C. for a national leadership conference.

Not only did the students have the opportunity to tour some of our nation's monuments, but they were given the chance to work with other leadership students from across the nation.

Elvira Chiprez said she and her classmates learned new techniques for programs promoting drug and alcohol awareness while at the conference.

As a result, the leadership students will be speaking to the Sunnyside School Board in the near future.

"We plan on concentrating on promoting awareness of the use of marijuana by Sunnyside High School students," Chiprez said.

Jasper Rubalcava stated that marijuana usage is not only prevalent at Sunnyside High School, but at high schools throughout the United States.

Students whom the Sunnyside group met in D.C. confirmed Rubalcava's suspicions of the prevalence of marijuana use. He said, "It is a social norm, from what was voiced at the conference."

Ashley Bridges said she was not surprised at the number of students at the conference who said marijuana use was a problem in their schools.

"We don't want marijuana to be acceptable in our society," said Aarika Hernandez. "We want parents to 'step up' and be in charge."

The group also stated that they feel community awareness of the issue is important. "We can't do it alone. We need the community's support," said Chiprez.

To assist in garnering that support, the students plan to also promote a program for educators. "We want to provide a class for educators, increasing their level of knowledge and skills in detecting marijuana and alcohol use," said Samantha Pearson.

The leadership group was also afforded an opportunity to meet with Sen. Patty Murray. Chiprez spoke on behalf of the group and provided testimony regarding what the leadership students at Sunnyside High School are attempting to do.

"We sat in on the senate, too," said Chiprez.

In addition to the planning and meeting Murray, the students toured the capitol building, the Pentagon and several monuments.

"When we were touring the Pentagon, we learned 270 light bulbs are changed each day," recalled Bridges.

But, what Hernandez found to be the most poignant part of the trip was when the students visited the Holocaust Museum. She said it made her reflect on the suffering of others, seeing herself as someone who is much more fortunate than she may have thought.

"All the monuments made us think about how many opportunities we truly have available to us," said Chiprez.

Pearson agreed, stating that the experience of visiting the monuments and several memorials, such as Arlington Cemetery, was overwhelming.

"We learned the cost of freedom just seeing all the tributes to those who lost their lives for us," she said.

Rubalcava said anyone who can take the trip should because he felt it is something that will remain with him throughout his life.

"And, everything was so close together...once you are there, you can visit so many memorials," he added.

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