Gonzales senior to attend Senate program

Contributed Photo of Cindy Aguilar-Castaneda

One of two students selected to represent state of California

GONZALES — Gonzales High School senior Cindy Aguilar-Castaneda has been selected to represent California at the 57th annual U.S. Senate Youth Program, sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation for students interested in pursuing careers in public service.

Aguilar-Castaneda is one of two high school students chosen by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to attend the 2019 program in Washington, D.C., from March 2 to 9. She and Lauren Kong, a senior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Los Angeles County, were picked as delegates for their outstanding leadership qualities, scholastic achievement and contributions to their schools and communities.

“These outstanding students are among the best and brightest leaders in their schools and communities and have a heart for public service,” Torlakson said in a news release. “They are strong advocates who desire to make our world a better place. I am amazed at all they have done in their young lives and look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in their future. I know they will achieve great things due to their commitment and dedication. They make me optimistic for our future.”

Aguilar-Castaneda is a youth commissioner with the Gonzales Youth Council, the official youth advisory group to the Gonzales City Council and Gonzales Unified School District.

She is a founder and mentor of Mentoring in New Dimensions (MIND), a peer-mentoring club that focuses on first-generation college students.

She plans to attend Stanford University and major in political science and public policy, ultimately obtaining a Ph.D.

As a first-generation college student and the first to graduate high school in her family, Aguilar-Castaneda desires to work with state and federal politicians to implement new policies and connect them to members of disadvantaged communities.

Torlakson also selected two alternates in the event that one or both of the delegates are unable to attend. The first alternate is Channing Lee, a senior at Cornelia Connelly School in Anaheim, and the second alternate is Gabriel Drill, a senior at La Cañada High School in La Cañada Flintridge.

The delegates and alternates are scheduled to be recognized by the State Board of Education during its Jan. 9-10 meeting in Sacramento.

To qualify for the program, high school juniors or seniors must be currently serving in an elected or appointed leadership capacity in a student government, civic or educational organization and express an interest in pursuing a career in public service. They are then nominated by their high school principal.

A selection committee from the California Department of Education reviews eligible nominees, and Torlakson selects the awardees based on the quality of the application, demonstrated qualities of leadership, academic achievement, involvement in school and community activities, extracurricular activities, interpersonal and communication skills, knowledge of American government and history and commitment to public service.

The U.S. Senate Youth Program provides a yearly opportunity for selected students to gain an in-depth view of the Senate and the federal government overall as well as a deeper understanding of the legislative, judicial and executive branches, according to the national site. The program provides a foundation of knowledge and encouragement for those who wish to pursue a career in public service.

Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity each receive a $10,000 scholarship and attend a one-week all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the program.


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