Port Richmond girl fights for ‘things that matter’

Young lead­er Brina Way will soon add an­oth­er ex­per­i­ence to her already full plate: she’ll vis­it the na­tion’s cap­it­al to help fur­ther her skills as a pos­it­ive force in her com­munity.

A Port Rich­mond girl named Brina Way will soon be off to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The 13-year-old Way was se­lec­ted to par­ti­cip­ate in an edu­ca­tion­al ex­per­i­ence in the na­tion’s cap­it­al de­signed to en­cour­age the next gen­er­a­tion of our na­tion’s lead­ers.

And a lead­er she is. Way, a straight-A stu­dent in eighth grade at South Phil­adelphia’s Phil­adelphia Per­form­ing Arts String The­ory Charter School, is also the spokes­per­son for a Fu­ture Lead­ers of Amer­ica Group (FLAG), where she rep­res­ents middle school stu­dents.

Her goal as a FLAG lead­er, she said, is to help kids her age to be aware, sup­port and fight for “things that mat­ter,” like how to deal with the pres­sures of be­ing a teen, and peer pres­sure in school.

She said she’d like to take her ex­per­i­ences from her trip to Wash­ing­ton and use them in the FLAG pro­gram.

The Washin­gon, D.C. pro­gram is called called “Voices of Lead­er­ship: Re­flect­ing on the Past to Cre­ate the Fu­ture,” and is run by the Ju­ni­or Na­tion­al Young Lead­ers Con­fer­ence. Way was nom­in­ated by her read­ing teach­er, Jen­nifer Baiole.

Par­ti­cipants are nom­in­ated by teach­ers based on their aca­dem­ic achieve­ment and lead­er­ship po­ten­tial, in ad­di­tion to re­fer­rals from pro­gram alumni and classroom sur­veys.

As part of the six-day pro­gram, Way will take part in edu­ca­tion­al activ­it­ies, work­shops and tours of im­port­ant sites in our na­tion’s his­tory, such as Harp­ers Ferry Na­tion­al His­tor­ic­al Park, in West Vir­gin­ia and D.C.’s mu­seums and me­mori­als.

Way will also study the im­pact of lead­er­ship throughout crit­ic­al peri­ods of Amer­ic­an his­tory in­clud­ing the Civil War and Re­con­struc­tion, World War II, the Great De­pres­sion and the civil rights move­ment.

The JrNYLC pro­gram is de­signed so gradu­ates gain a great­er sense of the role of in­di­vidu­als can play in Amer­ic­an demo­cracy, as well as the re­spons­ib­il­it­ies of be­ing a lead­er.

The pro­gram is de­signed not only to in­tro­duce young people to how lead­er­ship played a ma­jor role in Amer­ic­an his­tory, but to help them de­vel­op their own lead­er­ship skills — char­ac­ter, com­mu­nic­a­tion, goal set­ting, prob­lem solv­ing, re­spect and team work.

“The aim of the Ju­ni­or Na­tion­al Young Lead­ers Con­fer­ence is to in­spire stu­dents to re­cog­nize their own lead­er­ship skills, meas­ure their skills against those of cur­rent and former lead­ers and re­turn home with new con­fid­ence in their abil­ity to ex­er­cise pos­it­ive in­flu­ence with­in their com­munit­ies,” said Mar­guer­ite Regan, dean of aca­dem­ic af­fairs for the Con­gres­sion­al Youth Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, the or­gan­iz­a­tion that spon­sors JrNYLC.

Be­cause of her sol­id aca­dem­ics and her many activ­it­ies, Way was nom­in­ated to rep­res­ent her school. She’s one of the 250 middle school stu­dents se­lec­ted by the JrNYLC coun­cil.

Her moth­er, Christina Wasco, said she spends a lot of time driv­ing Way to her activ­it­ies.

Way plays on her school’s bowl­ing and soft­ball teams, and is also point guard and cen­ter on her school’s bas­ket­ball team. She also plays for Somer­ton Sports AA, and is part of an after-school theat­er pro­gram in South Philly.

“I know it sounds like I don’t have any free time, but I do,” she said. She ad­ded that she likes to draw and en­joys read­ing sci­ence fic­tion, drama and ro­mance nov­els.

When it comes to the fu­ture, Way has many as­pir­a­tions.

“I’d like to be an act­or, but so many people want to do that,” she said. “I also like to write. When I do school as­sign­ments, I try to ex­ag­ger­ate…to make the story in­ter­est­ing.”

She’d also con­sider be­ing a psy­cho­lo­gist. “I like how oth­er people see the world,” she said.

CYLC is a non­par­tis­an, edu­ca­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tion that has worked with over 200,000 young people since 1985. For ad­di­tion­al in­form­a­tion, vis­it cylc.org.

Re­port­er Susan Mad­rak can be reached at susan.mad­rak@gmail.com.

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