By the time you read this, the election will be done and over. The robocalls will cease, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign will stop texting its supporters and soon little holes will dot Santa Feans’ yards where campaign signs once stood.
SFR goes to press too early Tuesday evening for us to provide election results in our print edition (but go to swingstateofmind.com for ongoing coverage). But it’s never too early to look to the future. That’s why we decided this week to introduce Santa Feans to the next generation of leaders.
These young movers and shakers aren’t necessarily thinking about running for office one day. They mostly are focused on the present—whether it involves making thought-provoking films, working after school as a student lawyer or meeting with other students to promote equality.
Their backgrounds are diverse and their hopes are big. And, considering their impressive résumés at such young ages, who knows? One day, you may end up with one of their campaign signs in your front yard.
Julia Leitner, 18
Past and present: Julia Leitner’s background might lead you to think she has multiple personalities. She is a gymnast, a cellist and a participant in the Model UN. She also is a student lawyer in Teen Court, where she defends and prosecutes real-life juvenile offenders.
How does this all fit together? Leitner admits it is hard to summarize.
“I’ve been applying to colleges, writing these essays about myself and trying to figure out what the continuity is,” she says, sitting on the steps near Santa Fe Preparatory School, where she’s a student. “What I’ve found is, it’s stuff that I’m really passionate about. I’ve been doing gymnastics and cello so long, I can’t imagine my life without these things.”
For the last two years, Leitner has become interested in international affairs, highlighted by her two-year stint at the Model UN. In the UN program, 300 New Mexican students replicate the real United Nations, passing resolutions and debating foreign policy. Once a year, the group convenes at the Roundhouse for three days. This year, Leitner represents Italy.
“I got involved,” she says, “because I had this idealistic thing, like, one day I would make a difference.” Last summer, Leitner attended an even larger UN-type assembly in Washington, DC, along with 400 students from all over the world. The two-week program concluded with a UN simulation at the actual United Nations. “It was amazing,” she says.
More recently, Leitner’s interests have shifted to the Darfurian refugee crisis. After reading Dave Eggers’ book What is the What, she helped establish a social activism club at Santa Fe Prep and has been working with the Save Darfur campaign. She has helped out with bake sales that raise money for relief efforts already in Sudan, such as Doctors Without Borders.
The Future: Leitner is pinning her hopes on Ivy League schools. Yale is her first choice, although she also is looking at Dartmouth College and Princeton and Columbia universities. “If I don’t get in, I have a slough of other colleges—Wesleyan, Carlton…I kind of want to apply to Harvard, just to see if I get in,” she says. Though Leitner is not completely sold on a degree program, she plans on studying international relations.
On the ’08 election: Leitner just turned 18 a few weeks ago and is elated about the election. “This is the first year I’ll be able to vote, and I’m ridiculously excited,” she says. A volunteer for Tom Udall’s US Senate campaign, Leitner adds, “We’ve gotten so many people involved here. There seems to be a huge youth turnout.”
Changing the world: The Darfur refugee crisis is thousands of miles away from the day-to-day challenges of teen court. But in both realms, Leitner says, “You have the opportunity to change somebody else’s life. Hopefully by participating, someone else in high school will pick up on it.”
Andy Hyde, 17
Past and present: Andy Hyde is as all-American as they come. He loves God and baseball and serving his country, and he excels at expressing his appreciation for all three.
Hyde also has shown his proficiency as a businessman.
When he and his siblings were younger, SFHS counselor Rosemary Romero says, Hyde would pick mistletoe, wrap it in ribbons and put bells on it, and then sell it to passersby on the street.
“The kids collected their money for Christmas that way,” Romero says. “Isn’t that amazing?”
More recently, Hyde has worked in a church-run soup kitchen, feeding Santa Fe’s homeless. It was an eye-opener, he says.
“I was really surprised at how many homeless and struggling people there are out there [in Santa Fe],” Hyde tells SFR. “That motivates you to help out a little bit more, when you see how many people have problems.”
Counselor Romero, whose sons have played baseball with Hyde for years, says she was impressed by Hyde’s generosity toward others, homeless or otherwise. “He’ll go to other students’ houses and help out three or four kids at a time,” she says.
She notes that younger kids also look up to him. “He doesn’t do drugs or get into any trouble,” Romero says. “The kids look up to him and they know, by his example, that that’s not the right thing to do.”
Hyde’s altruism lends itself naturally to sports. He coached kids age 6 through 12 at a weeklong Santa Fe High-sponsored baseball camp held at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. Hyde currently plays outfield on Santa Fe High’s varsity team and has been playing since he was 6.
Why baseball? “It’s kept me out of trouble,” Hyde says matter-of-factly. “It puts structure in my life.”
Hyde’s love of structure is evident in his academic pursuits as well. Aside from tutoring other classmates in physics, he is planning on studying engineering once he gets to college. Hyde has one place in mind for post-graduation: the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Considering Hyde’s antipathy towards Sen. John McCain—primarily over his views on the Iraq occupation—the military seems a curious choice for Hyde. He is not interested in the warfare aspect of the Air Force, however. Hyde says he really just wants to fly airplanes.
The Future: Hyde is currently going through the rigorous application process the Air Force Academy requires. According to the academy’s admissions literature, candidates are required to fill out an application in addition to submitting nominations from state representatives (Hyde has already been in touch with Rep. Tom Udall’s office as well as Sen. Pete Domenici). Lastly, Hyde must pass a medical exam and a fitness assessment.
On the ’08 election: Hyde is too young to vote but, even if he could, he wouldn’t. He is far from apathetic about the democratic process, however. He explains, “There are issues on both sides [of the presidential election] that I don’t agree with, so I probably wouldn’t vote. With Obama, I don’t agree with his views on abortion at all. With McCain, it’s the war in Iraq—I don’t see the point in it.”
Changing the world: As a standout on his high school baseball team and (hopefully) a soon-to-be US Air Force Academy cadet, Hyde says, “I have been given a lot of opportunities…I really think I can help out with the less-fortunate people.”