Student samples political life

Joe Torres has always been politically minded.

It's never been hard for his mom, Shari Torres, to see his political side. She would often have intelligent conversations with her son about the 2004 presidential election. Joe, today a 17-year old La Cañada High School senior, was 11 at the time.

"He's always been interested in politics and he's always gotten along with pretty much everybody," Torres said.

This interest in politics appears to run in the family. Joe's grandfather was heavily involved in the Republican party in New York and had connections with the Reagan and Bush families.

"My mom would always tell me stories about politics and visiting the White House," Joe said. "It was constantly in my life through different stories and I've always liked the idea of it."

Now, for the first time, Joe is getting a realistic taste of what a political life is like. He was elected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for the California YMCA Model Legislature and Court on Nov. 14.

The election was held at Camp Roberts in Paso Robles during the YMCA's first training and elections conference of the year. Four candidates were chosen to run for the chief-justice position at the three-day conference. A debate was held between the two top candidates the final day of the conference. It was Joe's first debate.

"I was a nervous wreck," Joe said. "There are a million things going on during a debate and it just scared me."

The nerves didn't hurt Joe in the election. In fact, he won it by a landslide. Originally, there was a screen counting all the votes for both candidates. The screen was turned off about halfway through the voting process to preserve his opponent's feelings. Joe had accumulated 845 votes while his opponent had 51.

Serving as chief justice means Joe will control the YMCA's mock supreme court.

"The experience from this position and the knowledge that comes along with it just gives me an idea for what's going on. This is a foundation for me to build on," Joe said.

Joe was also recently chosen to represent La Cañada High School at a leadership and ethics conference on Jan. 7. He'll deliver an opening speech at the conference and is helping to plan the event.

Aaron Dover, an assistant principal at La Cañada High, said Joe was an obvious choice for the position.

"Joe Torres kept coming up as a name for the position," Dover said. "I actually called one student in to interview for the position who thought about it and said Joe Torres would be the right guy for this. It looked like I had no choice."

Dover said he wanted to choose someone who'd really blossomed into a leader this year.

"When I see him, I see other people wanting to follow him and that's the main thing," Dover said. "People like Joe. I think they trust him and see him as a leader."

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