Melanie Girovsky, a sophomore at South Allegheny High School, was among 1,900 students selected from high schools across the country to attend the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington, D.C., this week.
On Monday as part of the conference, she attended the inauguration of the nation's 44th president, seeing the ceremonies from a point on the National Mall.
A total of 17 students from Western Pennsylvania were invited to the conference, including those from Fox Chapel Area High School, Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, Connellsville High School and Beaver Area Junior Senior High School in addition to South Allegheny.
Melanie, 15, said she was looking forward to "getting to be a part of history" at the inauguration.
She was invited as a former member of the National Young Scholars Program and National Young Leaders conferences.
On Sunday, the second day of the inaugural conference, students heard a speech by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the topic, "Exploring Leadership: An Insider's Perspective on the American Presidency."
Also on Sunday, conference attendees heard a presentation by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and journalist moderator Nick Clooney on the topic "A Moment in History: All the President's Men," which was about the Watergate era.
Students also attended a presentation by retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark on the topic "Exploring Leadership: On and Off the Battlefield."
All sessions attended by the students are question and answer sessions, Melanie pointed out. The conference also included a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and an inaugural gala.
Monday Melanie said that Ms. Rice's presentation was the most interesting to her so far because she is interested in foreign policy work. Melanie said she would love to be a congresswoman, or a physician's assistant.
Melanie was first recommended to attend a conference of the National Young Scholars Program by a teacher in 2008, when she was in fifth grade. A teacher's recommendation is required.
After that, she attended the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, also in the capital, in 2009; and the National Young Leaders state conference in Pittsburgh in 2011.
In 2012, she also attended the National Young Scholars program in Washington, D.C.
Melanie lives with her parents, Jodi and Bob Girovsky, in Liberty.
"We are very, very proud of her," her mother said.
She advises other students to go to leadership conferences.
"It's truly a once in a lifetime experience," she said. "It's opened my eyes to what I can do to make a difference in the world."
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.