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Sharing with My Eritrean Community
By Tsega Habte Dear Eritrean Community Members, Family & Friends, It is a joy and honor to share the recent accomplishment of my twin daughters Meseret & Merhawit Mehzun with you. During the fall of 2015, the twins, Mercy & Merha, applied to be part of the 2015-2016 Youth Ambassador Program, which is an exclusive and very competitive program. The Youth Ambassador Program's selection process was rigorous and required applicants to submit essays, attendance records, transcripts and letters of recommendations. Once each applicant submitted their completed application packages, their applications were then scored by a review panel of local government Senior Policy Advisors. The applicants that scored in the high ninetieth percentile were selected to represent the City of Los Angeles' youth voice and were invited to participate in an orientation breakfast, followed by a special City Council acknowledgement session in City Hall’s Council Chambers. The twins, Mercy & Merha, were selected along with 13 other Youth ambassadors to undergo an 8-month curriculum that culminated with an annual spring break Inaugural Trip to Washington D.C.
Moreover, during this past March 2016, the twins along with 13 Los Angeles City Youth Ambassadors traveled to our nation capitol to represent the State of California and the City of Los Angeles on an Inaugural Washington D.C. tour. I would like to share their incredible journey and story with you and here it goes.
As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. The basic meaning is that a child's upbringing is a communal effort and you are a big part of that. Mercy and Merha are the living testament! We know that behind Mercy and Merha are people like you (and the entire FAME Church family including Sunday school teachers, choir directors, the Young People Division of missionaries, and the Daughters of Destiny Sorority), the Eritrean community at large and friends. With your support, they experienced a life-changing visit to the White House and the U.S. Capitol as honored Youth Ambassadors from the City of Los Angeles. It did make a great deal of life change experience. God has been so good to us!
There were over 300 youth from all parts of the United States (Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Delaware, Boston, Montana, and Alaska) that participated in the program. We were all in the same hotel and on the same buses and participated in all of the same workshops. Our group, representing Los Angeles, California, was the most diverse and the most active. In addition to our on-going program, we were afforded the exclusive opportunity to have two days of VIP privileges that were only offered to our group of 15.
We have some amazing pictures from this inaugural Washington D.C. tour. I was able to capture some great shots of our very own Congresswoman Maxine Waters at her federal office on Capitol Hill. She was so happy to see the twins and she referred to them repeatedly as "My Babies." She knew them from childhood. She spent more than an hour of her time, talking to the Youth Ambassador delegates about her role and continued work on very important issues such as: Policy, Legislation, Homelessness, Education, Health, Finance and how Government works. She set aside time for Q&A and gave everyone an opportunity to ask any question, and they did. She took the time to answer everybody's question with dignity and respect. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is such an amazing person! Immediately following her conversation with us, she was very gracious and assigned one of her staff members to chaperone our group on a tour of Capitol Hill; and he gave us a VIP tour of the galleries as well. The Youth Ambassadors have learned life changing subjects.
Maxine and I go way back during the Mayor Tom Bradley administration. I have worked on many projects with her and she would always guide me and played a big sister role in my life. I have a special love and respect for her. She really showed me the love she has for me and my daughters. It is often assumed that most young people are disengaged from politics and from the responsibilities of citizenship. However, what they learned in Washington DC, I now know differently and I see the innovation and integrity that this Youth Ambassador program offers to our youth. I am so grateful to God that my daughters were the beneficiaries of this opportunity.
Our day on Capitol Hill also included a visit to Congresswoman Karen Bass' office. On the last day of our visit the Youth Ambassadors had a VIP White House tour where they were able to view all of the historical rooms that the past and present Presidents of the United States have occupied. The VIP tour culminated with a panel discussion with President Obama's Cabinet members, and we were able to ask them questions about politics, policy, education and many other things. The panel consisted of the President’s right hand staff on Immigration Policy, My Brother's Keeper, Education Policy, STEM Policy, and White House Internships. I couldn't believe how well they treated our group. The looks on the Youth Ambassadors’ faces spoke volumes. It was absolutely amazing!
I am convinced that what I have witnessed on this trip as a Parent Liaison attending all the classes, meetings, and field trips to monuments and memorials such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Abraham Lincoln Memorial, and more have taught them more about the history of the United States. Such opportunity will inspire the youth ambassadors to prepare for the challenges and opportunities that life affords them. It was simply elegant and educational!
The Twins have returned home energized and motivated to become more civically engaged. In fact, the twins Mercy and Merha along with the other 13 youth ambassadors were delegates and participated and completed a 3-day Model United Nations conference at USC. Spending each day in the company of smart, vibrant, enthusiastic young people, like Mercy and Merha, makes me confident that if given the opportunity, the skills, and the knowledge to become active and informed, our own community kids will succeed, and they will do so it with gusto.
The leadership of the Youth Ambassadors dedicated time and worked tirelessly to help make the trip possible and will be bringing new resources, knowledge, and experience back to the classroom to hopefully help them for now and for a long time to come in College.
The culmination ceremony for this amazing program is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, 2016, at 11:30 am at Los Angeles City Hall, Tom Bradley Towers. And guess what? Rev. Cecil Murray the legendary, Iconic Pastor, will be the keynote speaker and Mayor Eric Garcetti will be present. Praise God! Thank you again for supporting Mercy and Merha. We really appreciate your kindness and blessings!
Some pictures below.
With love & Respect, Tsega, Mercy and Merha
We Would Love to Have You Visit US Soon!
United Eritrean Association P.O. Box 45938 Los Angeles, California 90045
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