JDHS senior heads to D.C.

Posted: Friday, January 22, 2010

Juneau-Douglas High School senior Haley Nelson helped to form a philanthropic organization for youth and raised money for a child with leukemia through elementary school art projects. She even brought rain to a Hopi community in Arizona - through fortuitous possession of the necessary feathers for a rain ceremony.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

She's also helped effect change through student government, and now, as one of 104 young people across the country selected for the United States Senate Youth Program, she's going to Washington, D.C., to get an inside look at how national government and public service function.

"Alaska will be proudly represented at this prestigious student leadership conference with Haley and Anum (Qadir, the other Alaska student, from Anchorage) as our representatives," said Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the program's 2010 Senate Advisory Committee, in a press release announcing the selection. "It's incredible to see such high achievement and commitment to public service in so many young people."

JDHS Guidance Counselor Frank Coenraad wrote a letter of recommendation on Nelson's behalf in which he calls her "a quintessential leader" and says she "has the vision, motivation, and inspiration necessary to bring any venture she desires to pursue to fruition."

Nelson said she's always enjoyed school politics and helping people.

"I really liked the idea of being a part of my school and being able to make changes, and being able to be a voice ... that actually can make a difference," she said.

When she was a sophomore, Nelson co-founded the Youth Action Committee, which has since received and locally re-distributed more than $34,000 to help with issues affecting teens and youth. She is currently the JDHS student body president and has been involved in student government since sixth grade. She's been involved in band, drama, debate and forensics, is a College Board AP Scholar, and served on the Juneau School Board's "Next Generation" committee, which helped plan Thunder Mountain High School.

"That was really exciting, because we were helping to build the new school. It was one of those influences that you can see. And that's probably the most motivating part, when you get to see it. Thinking about it, making it happen and watching it happen," she said.

She'll be heading to D.C. from March 6-13 and will attend meetings and briefings with politicians and staff, President Barack Obama, a Justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an Ambassador to the United States and top members of the national media, according to the release.

Nelson will also receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship from the Hearst Foundation.

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