Student learns how to be a better leader |

Student learns how to be a better leader

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyMinturn Middle School student Richard Trujillo learned all about leadership in Washington D.C., where he met a veteran at the National World War II Memorial.

WASHINGTON, D.C. ” Richard Trujillo, 12, shook the hands of senators, rubbed shoulders with international diplomats, interviewed presidential candidates and chatted with war veterans ” all during his first trip to Washington, D.C.

The Minturn Middle School sixth-grader visited the capitol in early October as an area ambassador for People to People, a student leadership program. Richard was one of two representatives from Colorado.

“It was a place to go see kids just like you. I got interested because I knew we were going to see a lot of museums and learn how to be a better leader,” he said.

A group of 30 to 40 fifth and sixth graders from across the country explored museums and monuments, learned about U.S. history, and met ambassodors and national leaders during their two-week trip.

Each night the students recordedt their experiences in a journal and discussed what they learned about leadership, Richard said.

Among his favorite stops were the Lincoln Memorial and the International Spy Museum.

“There were all kinds of gadgets from the past, and there was even a car filled up with weapons,” he said. “It made me want to be a spy.”

Another memorable visit was talking to war veterans at the National World War II Memorial, Richard said.

The students each wrote letters to a veteran, thanking them for their contributions. They delivered the letters to veterans they met at the memorial.

“(The veterans) kept saying thank you so much, and our counselors told us later they had tears in their eyes,” Richard said.

One thing he learned on the trip is that being a leader isn’t always easy, he said.

“You have to take the responsibility for others, help people when they make mistakes, and teach them,” he said.

He plans to use the skills he has learned in his future career as either an architect or a movie director, he said.

Richards mother, Elsa Trujillo, said she has seen her son mature since he went on the trip.

“He’s more independent and focused on his projects and his goals. He speaks about the future much more clearly, and he’s such a little gentleman now,” she said. “I’me very proud of him.”

Some of his teachers would say the middle-schooler already has shown himself a leader. Richard is an “all-round good kid,” Avon Elementary Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon said.

She remembers when he ran for student council president in the fifth grade. He did not win, she said, but approached the winner right afterward and said we wanted to work with her.

“That showed a lot of maturity,” she said. “He’s very diplomatic and good at working out differences between students.”

Richard was always involved in school and helped and encouraged his fellow students, said Avon P.E. teacher Mark Blickenstaff.

“He was the kid that took things in stride. He handled his loses and was always praising other kids, whether he lost or when other kids lost,” Blickenstaff said.

Richard has been accepted to go on another leadership trip with People to People next summer, this time to France.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or

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