2011 Washington state representative Erik Gomez, a senior at Brewster (Wash.) Junior/Senior High School, shared his experience in a Nov. 2011 article published in The Wenatchee World.
My hometown, Brewster, is unknown by most who live on the west coast of Washington, and it’s a miracle if someone from outside of the state does. It’s no wonder then that many who live here aspire to leave.
I am one of them. But after being told “You’ll never leave,” I questioned if I could leave. I doubted my abilities, my education and my will to leave and introduce Brewster to the world.
This past summer, however, extinguished those doubts. I left Brewster to travel across the nation to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. And I did it for free.
In May, I entered the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Program for Aspiring Journalists contest. Open only to high school juniors, there are 51 winners: one winner per state, including D.C. I filled an application form, mailed in two of my best journalistic pieces, two letters of recommendation and two essays.
Then, in June, I received a letter congratulating me — “You are your state’s winner!” I was going to D.C.!
On the morning of the flight, I realized I was leaving the state for the first time, that I was about to fly for the first time.
It was all “Oooh’s” and “Ahhh’s” until I finally reached the hotel and business started. I was in Washington, D.C., and I was my state’s representative. I said very little the first day.
The trip was busy all six days I was there. Our mornings were filled with trips to media centers, including NBC Broadcasting headquarters, where we sat at a taping of “Meet the Press” moderated by David Gregory, and USA Today offices, where we spoke with executive editor John Hillkirk.
It didn’t matter that I was from Brewster; I was equal with everyone.