PAL sends two teens to Washington D.C., for a leadership conference
By Chris Fish
VIERA - Two teens from the Satellite Beach Police Athletic League recently attended a national leadership conference in Washington D.C.
Amanda Blanchard, 15, a sophomore at Viera High, and Chelsea Hill, 17, a senior at Satellite High, were selected out of 25 members of the beachside program.
"We looked at youth in our program, who showed leadership skills and at those who would do something with the knowledge (they would gain) when they got back (from the conference)," said Rene Ingram, director of the Satellite Beach PAL program.
Ms. Ingram said Amanda and Chelsea attended the Close Up program, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that has inspired more than 725,000 youths to find their voices in a democracy, between the dates of June 24 and 27.
"(The conference) was designed to empower these kids, so they could know how the government works," Ms. Ingram said. "The focus of this weekend was to inform, inspire and empower youth to exercise the rights and accept the responsibility of citizens in a democracy."
The program also showed how government works, meeting members of Congress in the process.
Amanda said she hopes her experience will help her become a better citizen within her community.
"I had so much fun in Washington D.C. It was such an amazing experience seeing the rich history through the city lights," she said. "Many new friends and I are unbelievably lucky to have been chosen to participate in the amazing Close Up program. I hope I can make a difference in my community by the teachings of the Close Up program and my wonderful PAL group."
Chelsea said her experience gave her the opportunity to meet a variety of new people.
"Not only was I provided with so many opportunities to learn, but also the chance to meet and have a great time with kids from all over the country," she said. "We had a great time in the workshops, where we were taught how to form our own independent opinions and how to articulate them to peers. I learned so much in those short few days and met friends I will never forget."
The Satellite Beach PAL program is part of a national nonprofit that promotes positive relationships between police officers and youth through community-based educational and recreational opportunities.
The Close Up conference in the nation's capital was a gathering of PAL programs across the nation.
"Our PAL program is something that reaches out to the community. It's a safe place for kids to go. We are empowering them to become future leaders," Ms. Ingram said. "(We want them) to get out into their communities and schools and take active roles in the government. What they learn here, they take and go."
For more information about the Satellite Beach PAL program, visit satellitebeachpal.org.