02/11/04 — SW student chosen for D.C. Leadership

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SW student chosen for D.C. Leadership

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 11, 2004 2:02 PM

A Southern Wayne High School senior turned a trip to Washington into an opportunity to meet two presidents and chat with other dignitaries.

Ashley Parvin, 17, of Mount Olive was chosen to attend the Presidential Classroom program in law and justice during the last week of January. She along with 250 other high school juniors and seniors from 37 states were there to explore the federal government at work. The students spent the week discussing key political issues and observing the American political process on Capitol Hill.

The trip included listening to speakers, attending conferences, participating in debates, and visiting government officials. What was not planned was a photo opportunity with the president.

During some free time in-between meetings with senators and representatives, Ashley said, she noticed a large gathering in front of the Capitol.

"There were all these cameras and news vans," she said. "I knew something was going on."

When she realized President Bush had just finished a speech, she inched to the edge of a cordoned-off area. The president noticed and motioned for her to come closer.

With Secret Service nearby, she hesitated but said she decided to comply.

"I thought, if they send me home, they send me home," she said.

She had a moment to shake the president's hand, and a staff member snapped a photo, which he gave her.

She still had time before her next appointment, so she took a walk with several others through an underground tunnel that connects the legislative buildings. She found herself behind a tall, graying man who reminded her of former President Bill Clinton.

Just in case she was wrong, though, she decided not to call out his entire name.

"He was walking by himself; there was no Secret Service there right then," she said. "So I called out, 'Bill!' and he turned around."

She said he asked where she was from and when she said "North Carolina," he pressed for a more specific area.

"When I told him Mount Olive, he said, 'Oh, pickle country.'"

Earlier in the day, she had a scheduled visit with Sen. Hillary Clinton. Ms. Parvin said she was told it had been a stressful week for the senator. She said she asked Sen. Clinton if she would change anything if she could.

"She said she would never have run for Senate," Ms. Parvin said.

Her most rewarding encounter, though, was with Supreme Court tax judge Diane Kroupa, who presided over one of the caucus groups where Ashley argued a case.

"She was absolutely awesome," she said. "She gave a speech on goals and said she never expected to be where she is today.

"She came from nothing, worked her way up from being in a six-room schoolhouse to being a Supreme Court tax judge. ... She made me believe that I could do anything I wanted to do."

Ashley has long held an interest in criminal justice and worked for a Goldsboro law firm for a year doing research. She plans to pursue her studies in the field when she attends Mount Olive College next year.

She gives a large portion of the credit to the Wayne County Teen Court, which provides an alternative to the adult justice system for youth who get arrested. Over the last three years, she served as defense lawyer but found she preferred the role of prosecuting attorney. She said it prepared her for the cases she argued, and won, during the week in Washington.

"I could not have done it without my background in Teen Court," she said. "I could never have argued cases with those other kids."

She said many of the students did not have Teen Court or a similar program in their home states, and they were interested in receiving information about how to start one.

Ashley was also selected to speak at the program's graduation. She said she chose to speak about her own personal hero, her grandmother Ruth Parker of Mount Olive, a retired teacher.