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Petaluma student Violet Wang goes to Washington

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Co-chair of the Petaluma Regional Library Advisory Board, Co-captain of the Casa Grande Academic Decathlon Team, Lead Commissioner of the Petaluma Youth Arts Council. Petaluma high school student Violet Wang already holds several impressive titles, but her newest one may be the most exciting yet.

Wang was recently named a California delegate for the competitive U.S. Senate Youth Program, one of just two in the state, which includes a $10,000 college scholarship and week-long trip to Washington D.C. in March.

“Coming from a town like Petaluma, just getting the opportunity to go to D.C. is a once in a lifetime experience,” Wang said.

The Casa Grande senior will join 103 other delegates in the nation’s capitol for whirlwind crash-course in governance, public policy and public service. She will attend briefings and meetings with senators, the president, a Supreme Court justice, cabinet members, and leaders of federal agencies and national media organizations.

Both California student delegates will be celebrated by the State Board of Education during its Jan. 8-9 meeting in Sacramento, before jetting off to the capital Mar. 7-14

The U.S. Senate Youth Program was founded in 1962 in order to give students a deeper understanding of the federal government and encourage them to pursue careers in public service. In order to apply, applicants must demonstrate experience holding an elected or appointed position and be able to demonstrate academic interest and knowledge in government, history and politics.

For Wang, an aspiring lawyer and army officer, the program is a dream come true. She is planning on studying history and public policy at Duke University next fall, and has her eyes set on joining the Army ROTC program on campus.

She said she first learned of the opportunity after winning a $3,000 scholarship from the National Foundation for Women Legislators, which took her to the group’s annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Soon after one of the elected women mentors suggested she apply, Wang busied herself gathering application materials and drafting personal essays.

Among the 400 students she advises, Casa Grande High School Counselor Shana Friedman said Wang has always stood out, recalling meeting her during her first day on the job in 2018.

“What really sets her apart from most of her peers is how involved she is in activities both on campus and outside of campus,” Friedman said. “It’s not just the depth of involvement but also the breadth of activities she participates in.”

While the experience of spending a week in the nation’s capitol is exciting, Wang said she’s most looking forward to meeting peers with similar interests and learning their perspectives on politics and governance.

This curiosity in others and in discovering new ways to look at the world is partly influenced by her involvement with the Petaluma Regional Library, where she said she was introduced to a wider swath of Petaluma.

“Serving on the advisory board of the library, I’ve been able to learn a lot about diverse populations in my community and learn about groups that I may not have known about otherwise,” Wang said.

In her work around the community, Wang has focused on drawing attention to inequality and injustice, especially among those that are economically disadvantaged. Her primary goal while working with the library has been to offer more free test preparation materials, providing students an opportunity to prepare for standardized tests without shelling out hundreds on classes or books.

“She’s very skilled in seeing a need in the community, taking that and making it something actionable,” Friedman said. “She really cares a lot about the Casa Grande community, as well as Petaluma’s youth community.”

In addition to her role on the Petaluma Regional Library, Wang is co-captain of the Varsity Girls Swim Team and volunteers with Petaluma City Schools and the Petaluma Valley Hospital. Friedman estimates Wang has completed over 800 hours of community service in and around Petaluma.

“During the fires in 2017, it was great to see how the community came together to be supportive and inclusive, and that’s what inspired me to become more involved,” Wang said. “I think becoming involved in the community is one of the most empowering things you can do.”

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com. On Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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