PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Red Cloud Indian School sophomore Alex Merdanian has been named a national scholar by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, and will attend the council’s National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. this month. Held over a week each year, a select number of students from across the country are given this unique opportunity to interact with government representatives, news media and the international community.
This year, Merdanian will meet with senators, representatives and appointed officials, and will also have an opportunity to visit a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet to discuss important issues facing the nation, including topics important to the Native American community.
“This is a dream come true for me, as I’ve always wanted to see our nation’s capitol and meet with the leaders that guide our country today,” Merdanian said. “I’m grateful to my parents and the teachers at Red Cloud for assisting in making this experience possible.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, and work with a variety of people from across the country to both make and pass laws. This is an outstanding opportunity for me as I move forward in accomplishing my goals to making them a reality.”
To complement the schedule of meetings and briefings participants will attend, youth scholars will also develop leadership skills through team building activities and simulations, and get the chance to examine a Supreme Court case. The National Youth Leadership Conference culminates with a Model Congress, in which scholars assume the roles of U.S. Representatives and debate, amend and vote on a proposed legislation.
A product of a Red Cloud education, Merdanian has attended the school since kindergarten. She maintains a 3.9 grade point average while participating in a number of extracurricular activities, including volleyball, track and Lakota handgames. Dancing Lakota-style jingle dress as a child, she is also the current Miss Teca Wacipi Okolakiciye for the reservation-wide youth dance club. She was recently selected as treasurer on the Omaka Teca Powwow Committee, a position usually given to a distinguished member of the pow wow circuit.
“Alex is a remarkable young lady,” said Nick Dressel, principal of Red Cloud High School. “She is an all-around student, a role model for all that come in contact with her, and we are very proud of her distinguished accomplishment. I know she will represent the school well.”
Merdanian is the first Red Cloud student to attend the conference since 2000, and the third to attend in the school’s history – Merri Reis attended in 2000 and Sherlyn Swallow attended in 1998. She is the daughter of longtime Red Cloud staff member Tina Merdanian, and her husband Rusty.