Monday, January 12, 2009

Highland Park Teen Readies for Inauguration

Jacqueline Mendoza is captain of Nightingale's Science Bowl and president of Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA).

Jacqueline Mendoza, 13, almost turned down the opportunity to attend the historic presidential inauguration. Her family couldn't afford the $3,500 trip.

But thanks to Councilmember Reyes, her science teacher and others, the Florence Nightingale Middle School eighth grader is packing her bags, which will include a special pink dress, for Washington D.C.

She is one of several students--and the only one from Los Angeles--selected nationwide by the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference to witness Barack Obama take the oath of office on January 20.

Jacqueline, who lives in Reyes' First District community of Highland Park, raised the money needed for the five-day trip. The funds include $1200 from David Meyerhof, her science teacher. Councilmember Reyes kicked in an additional $1000.

Now Jacqueline is getting ready for January 17 when she boards a Southwest Airlines flight to the nation's Capitol.

Not only will she be representing Los Angeles, she’ll be doing it with a fashionable vintage flair.

“The dress my dad made me for the trip is based on Jackie Kennedy’s style of clothes. It’s a coral pink dress with a hand-stitch top,” she said.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Jacqueline recognizes the advantages of education and opportunities her parents did not receive. She humbly attributes her success, thus far, to her parents.

“Some students who come [to Nightingale] don’t take advantage of the opportunities given here. Lots of students don’t like coming [to school], but I love it here. I love learning,” she said.

Once Jacqueline graduates from Nightingale in June, she hopes to attend Bravo Medical Magnet High School and later enroll at the University of Southern California to become a cardiologist.

“My parents always push me to study because it’s going to help me out so much in life,” she said.

Her advice to students: "Never give up. Always try your best. And remember, a little effort goes a LONG way."

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