When Searvart Diradourian saw the envelope addressed to her son,
Vartan, in the mailbox, she worried he might have gotten in trouble.
Then she noticed it was from Washington, D.C.
"I thought, 'Oh no, has he been that bad?' " she said, laughing.
Not to worry. The 15-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student
had earned a great honor. He was selected to join some of the
country's brightest students on a tour of the nation's capital to
learn leadership skills and how Congress passes laws.
"I think the leadership skills we learned are the best thing to
take away from it," Vartan said.
Vartan was one of about 350 students who were invited to the
capital to participate in the National Young Leaders Conference,
between June 21 and July 1.
Vartan's biology teacher, Denise Pogrofzewski, nominated him for
the trip. Pogrofzewski said she thought of him when she received the
information about the conference, which was open to students
graduating in 2005 and 2006.
"I thought of all my kids in here," Pogrofzewski said. "I thought,
'I know he's a sophomore -- excellent! This is a wonderful
opportunity for him to do something like this.' "
Vartan was required to wear a suit and tie each day. His group
heard from guest speakers like Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.), Washington
reporters, and a man who raised $22 million in a year to start a
school for low-income students.
The conference was not all work and no fun, though -- Vartan and
his fellow students watched Baltimore Orioles baseball games, were
given a day to visit the Smithsonian and Washington's museums, and
had a dance party on their last night.