Yosemite High School 2011 graduate Kelly Mears, will be entering her junior year at Union College in Schenectady, New York, pursuing a degree in political science.
Last semester Mears was living in Washington D.C. on a study abroad program, interning with Young People 4, when she had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
Mears was invited to attend one of the president's addresses in the Rose Garden, where he urged students to contact the press and key political leaders to rally support to stop the doubling of federal interest rates affecting more than seven million student loans nationwide.
"Right before the speech, we gathered in Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House and had the opportunity to introduce ourself to the president which was fantastic," Mears said. "I had such a sense of awe meeting the president and being up close and personal to everything I have dreamed about being involved in helping make the world a better place through political action."
Last week the student loan legislation to reduce interest rates passed the House after passing the Senate the previous week. The legislation, that links interest rates to financial markets, offers lower rates for most students now, but higher rates to students in the future when the economy improves as expected.
"I'm excited to see this pass and now we are focusing on the overall student debt issue," Mears said. "Student debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark because of budget cuts and high tuition rates. Our focus now is to come up with long term solutions between state and federal agencies top bring down that $1 trillion in debt."
Young People 4 is a non-profit aimed at organizing and supporting the nations youth through leadership development and grassroots social justice movements. Young People 4 is a faction of the People for the American Way Foundation.
"Young People 4 hosts a year-long leadership development program including regional and national summits where nearly 150 fellows each year meet to train and learn skills to promote their causes," Mears explained. "The skills and connections met through the program last a lifetime and many former fellows have gone on to participate as members of Congress, state Assembly, or become mayors and city council members."
Mears will be participating in the program as a 2014 fellow.
"Kelly lives in an apartment two blocks from the Pentagon, and has been having a great and enlightening time living the D.C. life," said her father, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jack Mears. " Being a student, Kelly had a vested interest in the student loan legislation and was supportive of the president's stance on this issue. Only a few students were asked to attend the press conference and gather around the president as he spoke to the press and other student leaders in the audience."
In her first year at Union, Mears worked as a staff member on a mayoral race in the City of Schenectady.
During her sophomore year, she helped manage the Union College women's soccer team, and also announced games and kept stats for the team. She had the opportunity to travel with the team to Italy.
For the upcoming semester, she plans to do study in Athens, Greece, where organized laws and politics originated.
Her goal after graduation is to work in Washington D.C. in some capacity, working for political and social reform, and said she will always remember Oakhurst.
"Oakhurst and Yosemite High School shaped who I am today and prepared me to take on the world," Kelly said.
"I would love to represent my community and help implement change at the local, state and federal level," Kelly said. "Dream big or go home is my motto."