Wegner attends National Young Leaders Conference

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/2/97.

Maria Wegner, Paynesville, highly recommends other students to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. Wegner attended the conference Oct. 28 through Nov. 2.

The conference is a leadership program for high school students who have demonstrated leadership potential and scholastic merit. Wegner was nominated for the trip by Tammy Botten.

Wegner stayed at the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. with 350 other teens from across the country. There were five representing Minnesota.

ďI would highly recommend this trip to others. It was awesome,Ē Wegner said. ďIt provides a person a great opportunity to meet new people and to learn more about law and government.Ē

While in Washington, the teens were assigned to various groups and projects. Wegner was assigned to a committee to prepare two questions about an amendment. The question had to deal with how the amendment would affect the constitution if enacted.

In another group, Wegner was elected president of a mock situation. She was to obtain information from her advisors on how to deal with an oil crisis in South America. Two countries were fighting and the United Nations asked the United States to intervene and to plan a rescue for American residents caught in the middle.

ďWe really had a fun time trying to come up with solutions,Ē Wegner said. ďI had to hold a press conference and answer various questions. When I didnít have an answer, I opted national security and didnít give them an answer.Ē

In the end, she said their plan of action was to give the country 24 hours to react to mediation and if that didnít work, go in and get our citizens out by force.

In another session, Wegner was elected to be a spokesperson for her group in a mock congressional setting. ďI was expected to give a two-minute speech on why our group did not support a bill where juveniles 16 and older had to be tried as adults,Ē she said. ďIt was nerve-wracking.Ē

During the conference, Wegner heard welcoming remarks from the floor of the United States House of Representatives and attended a panel discussion with journalists at the National Press Club. ďIt was impressive to be on the floor of the House at 8 a.m. We learned C-SPAN and CNN were the only networks allowed to have TV cameras in the House. Security was very tight,Ē Wegner said. She had the opportunity to meet with Senators Paul Wellstone and Rod Grams and Congressman Collin Peterson.

ďIt took forever to get anywhere as the President of China was in Washington D.C.,Ē she added.

She also visited foreign embassys and received policy briefings from senior government officials. Wegner visited the Slavic embassy and said the tour guide related very well with teens.

While in Washington, she toured D.C. by night, saw the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and the Iwo Jima Memorial. The group also saw the FDR Monument, Vietnam Memorial, laid a wreath at Arlington Cemetery, visited the Smithsonian, Union Station and Pentagon Mall.

A senior, Wegner is the daughter of Tim and Sheri Wegner and Dale and Nancy Hennen, all of Paynesville. Wegner is a member of the National Honor Society, peer tutor, peer helper, D.A.R.E. role model, plays percussion in the jazz, concert and marching band, is a member of Target Leadership, has lettered in four varsity sports: softball, gymnastics, track and cross country, is a member of St. Louis Catholic Church Youth Group, and chaperones middle school functions.

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