McVEYTOWN - Jonathan Hayes, of McVeytown, is definitely interested in politics.
If you ask him if he plans to have a political career, his answer is: "Without a doubt."
This summer, the junior at Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy is set to attend the National Student Leadership Conference held July 5 to 12 at American University in Washington, D.C. The NSLC is an organization that helps high school students develop leadership skills and explore future careers through simulations, site visits and meetings with leaders in their chosen field, a press release states.
According to the release, the national forum chooses from a pool of highly qualified high school students from more than 70 countries. Students must be nominated by a teacher or someone who knows them in a leadership capacity. Hayes was recommended by the head of the State College Area Republican Quarters in recognition of his volunteer work and dedication throughout the 2012 political campaign season, the release states.
The conference includes 14 different programs and takes place in three cities: Chicago, New York and Washington. Hayes said he is proud to represent his community and school at the week-long "Political Action and Public Policy" program.
Students attending NSLC programs explore their chosen careers and attain skills and knowledge from others working in that field. Hayes will also earn three college credits through American University for participating in the conference and additional credits for taking an online course when he arrives back home, the release states.
Hayes said he is looking forward to networking and feels he has the skills and experiences to be a part of something "bigger than himself," the release states. Hayes said he is blessed to have had several role models and one day hopes to lead his generation.
He said his parents take his ambition in stride.
"They're very supportive. My dad is a huge inspiration. He was a great leader, and growing up, I got the opportunity to see him lead. He always told me that he worked behind a desk so that I could stand in front of a room," Hayes said in the release.
His parents aren't his only inspiration. Hayes said Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney have also had an impact on his career choice. The 17-year-old student was very involved in Romney's local campaign throughout the season, the release states.
"I carry a pen around with a copy of Ronald Regan's signature on it," he said. "The other side has a quote that says, 'It can be done.' I think he was a great example of optimism and enduring American spirit."
According to the release, Hayes' commitment to politics stems from his faith and concern for others. When he has doubts, he said he turns to God for help.
"I plan on working hard on bringing the Democrats and Republicans together for future political action with God's help. I care about those people whose voices aren't always heard," he said.
Hayes added that he believes politics is his avenue to help those people. However, he wants to make one thing very clear; he doesn't want to just delegate change, he wants to help make the change. He quoted John Quincy Adams saying, "If you inspire others to do something, then you're a leader."
Hayes is optimistic about the future and believes that the young people of America can help get the country back on track, the release states. He has a vision for what that track can be.
"If everyone gets a fair chance to lead, and since this is the land of opportunity, you will see our generation roaring back," he said.