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Local students selected to attend National Student Leadership Congress

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PABLO — Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound is proud to announce that two of our students were selected to attend the Council for Education’s 33rd annual National Student Leadership Congress. The Leadership Congress took place in June on the campus of Georgetown University Campus over a span of five days, during which approximately 100 high school students from across the nation learned democratic tools to bring back to their communities. To attend, students had to be nominated by their instructors, complete an application essay, and meet rigorous academic standards. Tre Heath-LaFrombois from St. Ignatius High School and John David from Polson High School were chosen for their leadership skills and passion as future change-makers. 

Tre has long aspired to be an animator. John is working towards a teaching career. Both students loved the chance to get to meet other high schoolers with a wide range of aspirations; developing connections with other TRIO kids was Tre’s and John’s favorite part of the entire Congress. “It felt like heart-to-heart in an instant,” said Tre of the other attendees. Both John and Tre were assigned to a mock congress group with the other students, during which these relationships proved important. Students were asked to research and debate modern topics of political relevance, such as gender discrimination and beauty pageants; it was essential that each student could speak their mind and support their opinions. “I appreciated that my group could come up with convincing arguments but not get mad at one another,” said Tre, and John agreed. “If we can’t talk to each other, then we won’t be able to manage.” The students became leaders in democracy, able to seek and listen to all sides of an issue before making decisions as a group. In an increasingly divisive political climate, we can trust these students to be courageous and understanding leaders. “I feel like I’ve gained confidence,” said Tre, to which John added, “And we can speak our minds better, and conduct thorough research.” 

During the Congress, John David and Tre Heath-LaFrombois got the chance to meet with Montana Senator Jon Tester. Each attendee was encouraged to ask their state senators to support their respective programs; Tre and John were happy to report that Tester was enthusiastic about supporting Montana TRIO. The students also asked Senator Tester about their mock congress topics. “He brought new perspectives,” said John. “Even if he agreed with our viewpoints, he would ask opposing questions and see how we would answer,” Tre said. COE coincided with the passing of Tony Incashola, a beloved community member and important person to Tre personally. Senator Tester gave his condolences and sent a letter to Tre’s family. A true democracy, the students learned, “is always about helping your community,” said John. 

When it was time to go home, the students said that they were ready to be back in Montana, but sad to leave all their new friends. The Leadership Congress isn’t an experience they’ll soon forget. “The most important thing about the trip in my opinion is that for everyone involved they get to travel to our nation’s capital and see stuff that they might not otherwise be able to see. The experience also led to a heightened sense of political issues that are affecting the nation,” John concluded, after being asked what he’d take away from the Congress. Tre concurred, adding that “The importance of this trip is extremely crucial to social development and getting to experience new things because you never know if you’ll ever get to see a place like DC and you never know if you get to live these experiences, so why don’t you go out and try.” 

Young people have always paved the way for our American future. Tre and John remind us that leadership is about building relationships and being there for your community.

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