West U. Teenager Embarking On Leadership Journey
Hobnobbing with Washington politicians, visiting every historic monument that’s worth seeing, eating fancy meals at the U.S. Embassy — All without your parents.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” said Hayley Talkington, a 13-year-old West University Place resident. “I thought it was a good opportunity and I had similar friends doing it, so that was good.”
Talkington is one of four lucky students at Presbyterian School who was chosen to participate in the People to People World Leadership Forum. She will travel to Washington, D.C. this spring for a possibly life-changing experience. She and her classmates — Annie Cherner, Christy Jacobs and Bellaire resident Kelly Buckner — have been friends since at least kindergarten.
“It will open her eyes to a different type of world,” said Nancy Talkington, Hayley’s mother. “The politics, the history, and I also think being on a trip like that there will be so many kids there she doesn’t know.”
Dwight Eisenhower founded People to People because he wanted ordinary people to communicate and solve their differences to help solve problems in society as a whole. Today the group’s student leadership programs take middle- and high-school students on trips around the world and teach them leadership skills to help them succeed in the global society.
The girls’ itinerary for their Washington, D.C. trip is fully packed and includes things like talking with members of Congress, learning about past leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., exploring historic monuments and museums, attending a fancy embassy dinner and much more.
“I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. before so I’m just excited about seeing the city,” Hayley Talkington said. Specifically she wants to see the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum, she said.
Shannon Scheiwiller directs the organization’s leadership programs and has observed changes in students after they complete the week-long adventures. Many are traveling on their own for the first time, studying American history and sight seeing while learning about past and present leadership styles. The students truly get something out of it, she said.
“For the students who go home, it’s an elevated sense of confidence and an understanding of their own leadership potential,” Scheiwiller said.
The students already have some leadership experience when they arrive. Teachers usually nominate students who have taken leadership roles and demonstrated achievement in the community, school or church.
“They are college bound, they are academically oriented and they tend to be the top performers in their school or their class,” Scheiwiller said.
Talkington said she participates in the National Junior Honor Society and sings in the Presbyterian School choir. She also serves as the choir’s student leader and is the captain of the 7th grade volleyball team. The 13-year-old also volunteers with her mother doing service projects for the National Charity League.
“This will be a great opportunity for her to see if she’s interested in any type of government position or career,” said Nancy Talkington.