Fueling a passion for learning through Future Presidents program

By LYDIA LEAL / Shortridge High School

Near the end of my freshman year, I was taken out of class by my school’s principal and pulled into the hallway. Like any student, I was thinking about what I could have possibly done wrong or right for him to single me out for a discussion.

To my relief, instead of him meeting me with a stern face, he smiled and congratulated me on being nominated by my teachers to apply for the Future Presidents of America program at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. The Future Presidents of America program engages middle and high school youth in politics and civic engagement. I was excited to get the opportunity to apply because I enjoy politics and keeping up with current events. I was already in student government and in eighth grade I was even voted “Most likely to be President.”

This seemed like a great opportunity which I wanted to take advantage of. During this one-week program, our group of 20 students met with a variety of speakers in the civic fields, including community leaders such as Christina Hale, former Indiana state representative; David Slade, chief development and marketing officer at WFYI Public Media; and Charles Braun, an Indianapolis attorney.

Each of us were able to ask questions about their journey and career pathway. I’ve always enjoyed conversations regarding politics and the ways they affect the world around me. These interviews made me realize just how complex some issues really are. Nonetheless, we all left the program more motivated than ever to pursue careers that serve our communities.

Not only did we engage with speakers, but we also went on some memorable field trips. The one that sticks out for me was eating lunch with our speakers in the Salesforce Tower. Whenever I go Downtown I like to tell whoever I’m with that I’ve eaten at the top of that tower and then I point out the window at the very top. Growing up I remember pointing up to that top window many times. I had always wondered what it would feel like to be in that space and it was an unforgettable experience.

We also did a walking tour around Downtown, following the trail of important historic events relating to President Benjamin Harrison. As we walked, our tour guide showed where Harrison recruited soldiers and the location where he turned down an opportunity to lead the Union during the Civil War. The guide also shared a very detailed explanation of how the roads of Downtown used to look. The streets that I used to walk through nonchalantly are now flooded with the history that I now know and see.

I’m a learner at heart, and Future Presidents of America fueled my passion and ambition for learning. I’m grateful that I was able to experience all that we did as it widened my horizons about the world around me. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

PHOTO ABOVE: The Future Presidents program is a function of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, located in The Old Northside.