Teen-Ager May See Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev won’t be the only one doing some globe-trotting this month to improve Soviet-American relations.
Saddleback High School senior Rosalie Vasquez has been invited to join a group of U.S. students hoping to meet with the Soviet leader during his summit meeting with President Reagan in Washington next week. Two weeks later, 15 Soviet young people will be coming to Orange County for a weeklong visit sponsored by the Church of Religious Science in Huntington Beach.
In announcing the “peace and good will” visit by the Soviet youngsters, the Rev. Peggy Bassett, senior minister of the Huntington Beach church, said Thursday that during their Dec. 21-28 trip to Orange County they will stay with U.S. teen-agers, participate in Christmas festivities and visit Southern California tourist attractions.
“The purpose of the visit is to have youngsters spend time together to reach an understanding about peace,” Bassett said. “Children who have been taught to be suspicious and hate people find that people of all nations are the same when they get to know each other firsthand.”
Bassett said the three boys and 12 girls, ages 13-17, are from a high school in Moscow where many of their subjects are taught in English. They were chosen because they won an essay contest on the topic of peace.
The students are scheduled to visit the Crystal Cathedral to see a performance of “The Glory of Christmas,” Bassett said. They also will tour the Queen Mary in Long Beach, go on a shopping junket to a local mall and spend a day at Disneyland.
The trip is being co-sponsored by the Huntington Beach church, which is contributing $20,000 to underwrite the cost of the visit, and Youth Ambassadors of America, a group promoting world peace through student-exchange visits, Bassett said.
Rosalie Vasquez of Santa Ana also hopes to be doing some traveling to improve international relations. Rosalie said she was startled Wednesday night when she received a call telling her she is one of 60 U.S. high school students chosen to go to Washington and meet with President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev during their summit conference. “It caught me completely off guard. I had no idea there was even a possibility,” said Rosalie, 17.
She said a spokesman from Future Leaders of America, a Latino youth development program, had called to say she had been chosen as the only county student in the contingent of high school students scheduled to leave Tuesday for the nation’s capital and return the following Saturday.
Efforts to confirm the plans were met with a “no comment” from the California Assn. of Student Councils (CASC), which has reportedly organized the meeting with Project Direct Connection, a citizens’ diplomacy group from Northern California.
But Rosalie said: “The spots are definitely there. It’s just a matter of financing. I’m crossing my fingers my parents have to pay the least possible.”
An A-minus student who sings in the jazz choir and who spent last summer in France through the American Field Service, Rosalie is also co-vice president of a peace club at her school. She said she has applied to Smith College and wants to be an ambassador.
“My mother is jumping up and down,” Rosalie said, adding that her mother let her open an early Christmas present, a heavy winter coat--the start of a new, warmer wardrobe she is collecting in anticipation of attending Smith.
Born of German parents, the red-haired, green-eyed Rosalie was adopted by Cecelia and Raul Vasquez when her adoptive father was stationed in Germany with the military. Rosalie, who is bilingual, has been active in Future Leaders of America as a peer counselor and was chosen for her leadership ability, Saddleback High School principal Nancy O’Connor said.
“She’s just an outstanding young lady in every sense of the word--real dynamic,” O’Connor said. “Everyone in the school feels really thrilled to have this much touch with this moment in history. We wish we could go with her.”
Rosalie said she is already asking other students what they think she should ask Gorbachev. She has no idea whether there will be guidelines on her questions or whether they will need to be submitted ahead of time.
“Gorbachev recently published a book,” she said. “I’m going to purchase it (Thursday) and read what he’s written.”
She said she might ask how long Soviet troops will remain in Afghanistan or how Gorbachev justifies media censorship. “If he’s proclaiming glasnost, how can he continue to suppress information people would normally get from an open media?”
Vasquez’s honor will be announced to the student body today, O’Connor said. Already, various groups have come forward to offer financial help for transportation costs, the principal said.
“We’re looking forward to her reaction when she gets back,” O’Connor said.