Three VPS students traveled in September to Washington, D.C., for leadership activities. Hudson’s Bay High School senior Fernanda Cerrillos, pictured on left, was selected to attend the prestigious annual Washington Youth Leadership Seminar along with rising leaders from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The seminar is organized by the nonprofit educational arm of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

Gabriela Rosales, center, and Lindsey Luis, right, also traveled to the capital, where they attended workshops and meetings of the LULAC National Youth Board and met with members of Congress. Luis is LULAC’s national youth president. Rosales is national youth vice president of the Northwest. Both are seniors at Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies.

At their respective schools, all three students have engaged in service projects through LULAC’s ¡Adelante! America Program. Cerrillos helped plan a quinceañera for classmates who hadn’t had one and provided child care at Washington State University Vancouver during conferences. Rosales and Luis coordinated a screening of a documentary about activist Dolores Huerta.

“I am really thankful for LULAC. Coming in my sophomore year, I didn’t know how much it would change me, because it kind of forced me to become this leader I wasn’t expecting to be,” said Cerrillos. Now she’s focused on helping her classmates graduate and find their own paths to leadership. “I want to voice my opinion for my community,” she said.

The trio’s leadership has expanded over their high school careers. Luis and Rosales are involved with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán and the Black Student Union. Both are enrolled in Advancement Via Individual Determination. Luis also is part of the bowling team, shared her writing at the Orpheus event and has served as a student ambassador for Fort all four years of high school.

Cerrillos now is co-president of Bay’s National Honor Society and part of the student government and Key Club. She also takes Advanced Placement courses and Running Start classes at Clark College, as well as runs cross-country.

Civic engagement and advocacy have remained important for these seniors. At the seminar, Cerrillos strengthened her skills through workshops on topics including resume-building, college financial aid, legislation and navigating degree and career choices. She also met with legislators and networked with students from all over the U.S. and from different cultures.

Those opportunities are a valuable part of LULAC, said Rosales, who works with the organization’s youth councils in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, helping peers organize and serve their communities. “It’s getting so diverse. It’s not only Latinx but it’s many other ethnicities. I’m enjoying it.”

At the national level, Luis also assists new youth councils. She attended LULAC board meetings in D.C. to vote on organizational matters.

“When we’re in an organization such as LULAC, we all work together for the same goal: to empower and strive for betterness for the Hispanic and Latinx community,” said Luis, who also acknowledged the desire and importance of working with all communities to effect positive change.

These three seniors are already on their way.