Brightney Varghese and Jarrett Lash, seniors at Osbourn Park High School and Patriot High School respectively, were among only 68 students selected nationwide to attend the National Town Meeting on Tomorrow (NTMOT) held last fall in St. Louis. The students were selected through the Youth Salute Program to represent Prince William County. At the closing awards ceremony, Lash was recognized as one of the top 12 finalists for the National Youth Leader of the Year and awarded a financial scholarship.
“I really enjoyed it,” Varghese said. “It was really interesting to hear different perspectives from people across the nation. It was a safe space and you could talk freely.”
“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” Lash said. “The whole event was around breaking down who we were so we could work together by the end of the week. I developed a deep understanding of who I am and how I can better society.”
During the four-day conference, students dialogue with proven adult leaders, broaden their horizons by interacting with youth leaders of diverse backgrounds, enhance leadership skills with seminars by dynamic professionals and national political leaders, and participate in small group experiential learning opportunities.
“The program is so well-constructed,” Lash said. “Whatever expectations we had in mind, it was 10,000 times better.”
Varghese and Lash said the students openly discussed a variety of issues, including wealth disparity, racial oppression and educational disparity. They also had an opportunity to tour Washington University in St. Louis.
“The chancellor (of Washington University) did come and talk to us, which was pretty striking to me,” Lash said. “He took the time to talk to us because the program is important to Washington University. They really rolled out the red carpet for us.”
Varghese said she learned that sometimes it is hard to complete group activities when everyone in the group is a leader.
“Now, whenever I am in a group setting, I make sure there is equal participation and allow everyone to voice their opinion,” she said.
Lash said he developed a more profound understanding of the impact of educational disparity and how it affects society. He said that after talking with students from across the country, he feels like he has received an excellent education in PWCS.
“This is a world-class education we are getting here at Patriot High School,” he said. Lash previously attended Glen Kirk Elementary School and Gainesville Middle School. He also attended the Governor’s School @ Innovation Park before earning an internship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he studied electromagnetic satellite thrusters.
Lash, a busy student, participates in VEX Robotics, SeaPerch Underwater Robotics, Science National Honor Society (president), National English Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, and All-District and All-County Bands. He is an Eagle Scout and has earned several awards at the state and national level in Precision Air Rifle and Smallbore Rifle competitions. Lash has earned an appointment in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, following in the footsteps of his older brother, father and both grandfathers, all of whom served in the military. He said he is open-minded about what he might do upon graduating from the Academy.
Varghese attends the Governor’s School @ Innovation Park and served as the vice president of her junior class. She is a religious education teacher and was a delegate at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. She is a member of the National Honor Society, National Math Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, Medical Club and Key Club. She plans to major in biomedical sciences at a four-year university.