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Local teens to visit Washington, tackle issues close to home

ESPANOLA - A dozen senior 4-H members from Rio Arriba County will travel to Washington, D.C., this summer to learn more about public policy, thanks to a $17,000 grant.

Burlington Resources-Meridian Oil Foundation is underwriting the teens' trip to attend Citizenship Washington Focus July 22-29.

"They will be spending a week learning about public policy and how government works, with the object of learning how to affect policy in their own communities," said Roberta Rios, county program director with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

"They then will return to Rio Arriba County to follow through with youth issue forums to be held throughout the county in which they will survey the community about local needs and then present those issues to the county commission.

The Citizenship Washington Focus participants already are tackling some local issues, including the improvement of a state road that runs through the county, Rios said.

"They're learning that sometimes little steps, a letter or phone call can lead to larger ones down the road," she said.

Working with other young people and community members means 4-H members' citizenship and leadership experiences could have long-lasting effects, Rios believes.

"Our kids will be tomorrow's leadership," she said. "We want them to become active participants in issues that affect their lives."