Not many 16-year-olds can say they’ve eaten dinner in the Smithsonian Institute, chatted with a U.S. senator and fired live rounds of ammunition at a historic military installation, but Cody Lithco can.
The North Central High School sophomore recently returned from a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C.
“I really wanted to go to the inauguration, but it was too expensive,” he said. However, Lithco’s father works for Honeywell Electronic Materials in Spokane and heard about a unique scholarship program the company offers to children of its employees.
The Honeywell Scholars at Presidential Classroom Program gives teens, grades 10-12, a behind-the-scenes view at how science and technology interact with public policy. Students are selected after a rigorous application process. To qualify, teens must have a 3.0 or higher grade point average, participate in community service activities and, said, Lithco, “I had to write an essay.”
This year Honeywell awarded scholarships to 288 teens from 20 countries and 31 states. Lithco was one of three students from Washington to attend the March 1-8 event.
According to the Web site, the goal of the Presidential Classroom Program is “to prepare young leaders for responsible citizenship and provide outstanding high school students the chance to explore the political process firsthand.”
For Lithco, meeting Sen. Patty Murray was eye-opening. “We discussed education and how some of our classes (at North Central) are being cut to make room for classes for seniors who are failing,” he said. In addition, the students received passes to the House and Senate galleries. Lithco enjoyed observing the Senate in action. Coincidentally, “They were discussing education and classes being cut.” he said.
Students attended seminars conducted by leaders in business, technology and politics. Lithco heard lectures by Lon Levin, co-founder of XM Radio, and Barrington Irving, the first African American and the youngest person to complete a solo flight around the world. “He was really inspiring,” Lithco said. “He pursued his dreams in spite of rough times.”
Participants also paid a visit to the Vietnam War Memorial, which proved especially poignant for Lithco. “My grandmother’s brother was on the wall,” he said. Finding that name was an emotional moment for the teen. A trip to Fort Belvoir in Virginia added a more light-hearted highlight. “I got to wear night-vision goggles and fire live rounds,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
Dinner at the Smithsonian also provided a memorable evening. “They rented it out, and we had dinner among the exhibits,” Lithco recalled.
At 16, he’s still pondering his future. Lithco is an avid runner and a member of North Central’s cross country team. He plays violin in the school orchestra and is an accomplished figure skater, placing 14th in the 2007 Junior Nationals in Denver.
Meeting influential leaders broadened his outlook. “I like science and paleontology,” he said, adding that his trip has awakened an interest in political science as well. The places and things he saw during his stay in the Capitol were fascinating, but Lithco found something even more memorable. He said, “What’s special is I got to meet people from around the world.”
A graduation ceremony took place at the week’s conclusion. “The fife and drum corps that plays for the president, played for us,” Lithco said. “It was amazing.”