Colleen Akehurst says teens are their own best representatives


January 16, 1994|By Linell Smith

Colleen Akehurst is the kind of teen-ager who has a signed photograph of President Clinton shaking her hand. She's also the kind of person who cringes at the notion that she's a model teen-ager.

But facts are facts: She did meet the president at the American Legion Auxiliary Girls' Nation conference last summer and she is president of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, an organization that represents roughly 200,000 secondary-school students in the state.

Last year, the Bel Air High School senior was one of three students who led the legislative lobbying effort to win voting privileges for the student who sits on the state board of education. This representative can now vote on policy decisions and by-laws, although not on personnel, budgets or appeals.

Ms. Akehurst also recently helped train students as group leaders for a statewide student conference that will consider such topics as year-round schooling, school violence and school wellness centers.

"Youths need to be represented and the best representation we can get is ourselves," she says.

"I believe we're informed on the issues and we can talk about them and make a difference. I believe that my generation is coming to the forefront of social activism on issues at a younger age [than the previous generation]."

Ms. Akehurst, 17, hopes to study electrical or mechanical engineering in college and minor in public policy. Her favorite subjects are U.S. history, computer science and mathematics; her favorite sport is cross-country running. She teaches Sunday school at her church.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this teen-ager also has a part-time job. A student contractor to the Department of Defense, she works about 15 hours a week at the Army research lab at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Says Ms. Akehurst jokingly, "I gave up sleeping for the year."

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