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Taking on world from her own backyard

United States, August 27, 2009

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Rita Michel

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August, 2009

Laura Wreschnig attended a leadership summit in New York

Sometimes, an inspiration to help the world can lead a person from her hometown and back again.

Laura Wreschnig, 17, a senior at Shaler Area High School, attended the Global Citizen Corps Youth Leadership Summit last week in New York City to learn how to plan a yearlong advocacy campaign for her hometown.

The Global Citizen Corps provides educational resources, hands-on guidance and leadership development to teach students how to organize grass-roots programs to combat global poverty. The Corps was created five years ago by the global relief organization Mercy Corps. With headquarters in New York and Portland, Ore., Mercy Corps provides funding to assist people around the world who are stricken by poverty and natural disasters.

Laura attended the Action Center to End World Hunger from Aug. 17 through Friday in Lower Manhattan. There, she and other teen leaders from across the country heard from experts how to confront the challenges of poverty. They visited an environmental justice organization in the South Bronx and met a group of young people in Iraq through a video conference. The activities and lectures were aimed at helping the students learn how to plan a local advocacy campaign.

"They teach us how to be leaders in our own communities," Laura explained before she left for New York. She was most looking forward to the tour of the United Nations headquarters.

Becoming aware of hunger locally is what led Laura to New York for the opportunity to learn how to teach others about this global crisis.

First, Hilary Domencic, Laura's Gifted and Talented Education teacher at Shaler Area, encouraged her to attend an internship held at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in association with the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, a nonpartisan group that promotes awareness of world issues through various programs. The Pittsburgh group is affiliated with the World Affairs Council of America.

The internship on international affairs "made me interested in learning more about opportunities to help people," Laura said.

What followed was her application to attend the leadership summit in New York. Laura wanted to meet people who shared her interest in improving the world and who could help her begin an awareness program. "I would love the opportunity to meet people who have faced that challenge and hear how they did so," she said.

She plans to launch her campaign where her interest began -- at Shaler Area High School. Throughout the school year, she will work with teachers and school administrators to arrange speakers for assemblies to tell students about global crises, including hunger and water quality. She'll advertise the events with posters and set up tables where she can provide information and answer questions about the issues.

After she graduates in 2010, Laura plans to attend a liberal arts school, study international affairs and languages, and ultimately pursue a career in economics.

"I'd like to work for the World Bank and help developing nations," she said.