By Madelyn Reese
The Daily News
LONGVIEW — Even though she might have been disappointed with the outcome of the election, 15-year-old Emma Ortiz-Walters is counting down the days until she leaves for Washington, D.C., to attend the country’s 58th presidential inauguration.
The Three Rivers Christian School sophomore and Rainier resident will travel with a group of students from around the nation as part of the Envision Career and Leadership program, which hosts a presidential inauguration leadership summit for high school students, reported The Daily News.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is seeing history being made,” Emma said by phone. “This was a very historic race for the presidency. I’m excited to see — for lack of a better word — the culmination of all that.”
She’ll head out Jan. 18 and spend the next several days attending conferences, participating in discussion groups and attending the inauguration itself.
Emma was invited to apply to the inauguration trip because she was already an alumna of a previous program hosted by Envision, which puts on career, technology and leadership programs for students with high academic achievement. For its basic programs, students must have a 3.0 GPA or greater and demonstrate leadership potential through extracurricular activities as well as personal essays.
About 10,000 students attend Envision events all over the country each year.
While Emma said she’s currently interested in the sciences, particularly theoretical physics, developing leadership skills is important to her.
“My personal belief is it’s important even if I’m not necessarily going to go into government or business,” Emma said. “Leadership includes communication skills and being able to articulate yourself well.”
Part of the upcoming trip includes small-group discussions with other students “to generate solutions to real-world challenges that the next president and their generation will face,” according to the program’s website.
Small groups will discuss a range of topics from technology and the future of humanity to conflict and compromise in a global age. Emma will be a part of the group discussing women and their role in global leadership, a topic which interests the young teen.
“By no means is our country the worst, but we’re kind of behind in women in leadership and … there’s still a bit of sexism in our society,” Emma said.
“And I think that women have a lot of potential, but in some places they’re not able to use that potential because a man will be chosen before them.”
Emma and her mother declined to talk specifics about their political leanings, but Emma did say that she was disappointed with the outcome of the November election.
Emma will also have the opportunity to explore Washington, D.C., including trips to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museum.
Several notable speakers will be in attendance before and after the inauguration, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and writer and director Spike Lee.
The program costs a little over $3,000 to attend, not including airfare. Through fundraising and seeking sponsorship, Emma raised nearly $3,000 toward her trip.
“I’m super proud of the fact that she has a spreadsheet [with] everybody’s name and address. And if they’ve made a donation, she has that logged and she has the date logged when she sent a thank-you card,” said Emma’s mother, Denise Walters. “I’m super excited for her.”
Walters said that this is the first presidential election that the entire family (Emma, Denise and Denise’s husband) has followed together.
“We all did not share the same political views,” Walters said. “So there was a lot of, I guess you could say, ‘debating’ and talk about why we felt the way we felt and what we saw as progress.”
Walters said her daughter can be very opinionated, and she encourages that as long as Emma has “the facts to back it up,” Walters said. “And she did. If she was going to make a statement … she had the facts to back up her statement.”
She has some safety concerns for her daughter, noting how divisive the election was.
“I think any type of event that she is going to, especially with politics, there’s always a chance for trouble,” Walters said. But the group has provided parents and attendees with safety procedures, emergency contact numbers and plenty of information that Walters feels confident her daughter will be safe.
“I thought about her not going when all of the hubbub started with Trump,” Walters said. “But if we didn’t do something every time we were scared, that wouldn’t be good.”