Senate youth program takes Parkland teen to D.C.

Politics may not be everyone’s favorite word these days, but Joshua Feinzig has seen enough of it, and at close range, to believe that it still remains one of the most powerful tools for social change.

The Parkland resident, who was one of the two students from Florida to be selected for the U.S. Senate Youth program this year, recently spent a week in Washington D.C. Fifteen minutes of that was spent in the company of President Barack Obama.

“He spoke to us as a group,” the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior said. “The President is calm, very similar to the way he presents himself on TV. He has a warm presence about him. It was a pretty surreal experience, but he wasn’t intimidating at all.”

“We had two students from each state there,” Feinzig said. “My friends and others are amazed that we ended up meeting the President, but to me, that was just 15 minutes out of seven days spent in awe. It was incredible to get a view of Washington D.C. that very few people end up having.”

“We met Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Ruth Ginsburg, associate justice, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Senator Bill Nelson, among other dignitaries,” Feinzig said. “I learned a lot about the workings of government and the mind set of people in government.”

Feinzig was one of the brains behind TTYL Inc., an organization formed in 2009 to spread awareness about the dangers of texting while driving. The group of students was also involved in efforts to pass legislation banning texting while driving at the local, state and national level.

Interning for Congressman Ted Deutch was the next logical move for the Douglas senior. “That gave me a behind-the-scenes look at the political process. It made me understand how change through the political process is possible.”

The trip to Washington has only whet Feinzig’s appetite for politics. “I understand the value of political involvement,” he said. “The highs and lows of politics fascinate me. I am really excited by the idea of Washington D.C. being the center of the world.”

Donna Amelkin, Language Arts Department chair at Douglas High, believes that Feinzig has a great future. “He has a really passionate drive to succeed,” she said. “He is a planner and a processor. He is extremely respectful and very motivated to do the best he can.”

“Last year, we had another student, Erica Turret, selected for the U.S. Senate program,” Amelkin said. “She was selected as a junior. It is great that we have two graduating seniors who have been part of the program. Josh is joining Yale University while Erica is going to Princeton.”

Stuart Feinzig is excited by the opportunities that lie ahead for his son. “The Washington trip really galvanized Josh’s feeling that he wants to play an important role in government. He feels as if he can make a contribution not only to government but also to society in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if he held public office down the road.”

“He was glowing when he came back from the trip,” Michele Feinzig, Josh’s mother, said. “It is one thing to study government in school and entirely another to see it in action from the inside. The students who were part of the program are the future leaders of our country.”

Feinzig, who is a nationally ranked debater, does not know what the future has in store for him. “I am not looking for political glory or anything of that sort,” he said. “I don’t know if I will ever hold an elected office. I want to do something related to public policy.”

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