Speaking for world's youth Ambassador: Katrina Scott made her first trip abroad more than memorable as part of the U.S. delegation to a conference in Portugal.

August 29, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

When teachers and friends ask high school senior Katrina Scott what she did this summer, she will have an answer far more exotic than most others: She was the country's youth ambassador to a global conference in Portugal on young people.

In Lisbon, the 17-year-old Baltimore City College high school student attended a United Nations conference held by the Portuguese government, accompanying Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala to meetings and visiting this century's last world's fair.

"She was terrific as part of the team," said Shalala. "It was my idea to bring a young person. I told the president, and he thought it was a great idea."

Shalala said bringing a Baltimore high school girl -- Katrina was the youngest member of the United States delegation -- sent a message to the world: "Young women ought to have the same opportunities as young men." In her speech to the 100-nation conference, Shalala cited Katrina personally: "We want every young person, wherever they may live on this earth, to be as active and determined as Katrina."

"It was almost overwhelming," Katrina said of her experience representing the country.

In her journal about her first trip abroad, Katrina recorded her initial impression of Shalala: "She seems to be a very energetic person." She and other delegates were treated like "kings and queens" and

shown around Lisbon by U.S. Embassy staff, she recalled in an interview after her return.

Katrina was among a handful of youth delegates at the conference from Aug. 6 to 12. She was chosen to represent the United States by Douglas W. Nelson, who also made the trip. Nelson is president of the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated to disadvantaged children.

Nelson said Shalala had asked him to find a young leader in Baltimore, and the Safe and Sound Campaign, which mobilizes support for city youth, found him "someone so good we can't resist nominating her" -- Katrina Scott.

A youth organizer for the program, the Baltimore teen-ager said her mother, family and friends were thrilled at her opportunity to travel overseas: "Everybody wanted to go to Lisbon and ride in back of the plane or be packed in my suitcase."

In a session at the conference, Nelson said, Katrina spoke on the importance of having young people participate more fully and visibly in the discussions. "It took courage to give voice to that," he said.

Hearing speeches by prime ministers taught Katrina that, as she put it, "the condition of young people has become an international issue." Socializing at evening events showed her how curious others are about American clothes, music, movie images and the White House sex scandal.

"They could not believe what a big deal it [the scandal] is," she said. After viewing exhibits on war-ravaged Croatia and Lebanon, she returned with a sense of gratitude that she lives in a country at relative peace.

She also learned a lesson about politics on the world stage: "There was more conflict over which words to use rather than the substance of the paragraph" in drafting the U.N. Declaration on Youth, which was one of the conference's chief aims.

At the world's fair, Katrina said she came away with a sense of how far you can go and still feel the ties of home: "We saw the Pride of Baltimore exhibit, which scared me, because I thought I had already left Baltimore, but it was still there."

Pub Date: 8/29/98

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