Student:

Lauren Williams.

School: Perkiomen Valley High School in Collegeville, where she is a junior.

Achievement: Williams, of Collegeville, was one of two Montgomery County residents who attended a Presidential Classroom Scholars Program in Washington in February. Sarah DeCamp, a Gladwyne resident and a junior at Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, also participated in the weeklong program.

Participants had discussions with influential leaders and policy-makers, visited national institutions, witnessed exercises and debates on topics of importance, and interacted with teachers, mentors and peers from across the country.

The Presidential Classroom Scholars Program sponsors about 15 weeklong workshops in Washington annually, with about 200 to 300 students on each visit. Students can be nominated by schools, but the organization also works with several educational organizations to identify qualified students.

To be eligible, students must have least a B average or be in the top 25 percent of their class and obtain a signature from their principal.

Highlight: "My favorite memory," Williams said, "was participating in the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Some of my family members are buried on the grounds. My parents actually drove the three hours to D.C. from Collegeville to come see me help place a wreath on the tomb along with three other students."

Mingling with students: "I found the most exciting people I met were my friends. My three roommates, two from Puerto Rico and one from southern Texas, all spoke fluent, rapid-fire Spanish. I, on the other hand, do not. It was truly awesome to see how on Day One, I could understand nothing they said between themselves, but by the last day, I could make sense of entire sentences.

"Also, while waiting for these roommates to arrive, I happened to wander downstairs in search of entertainment. I met a girl from New York, and we talked for nearly three hours straight. I think that it is absolutely amazing that Presidential Classroom allowed me to make these sorts of connections, which I could never receive at home."

Presidents' Day: "On the second day, which happened to be Presidents' Day, we were shipped off to Mount Vernon to see President Bush give a speech. There was snow everywhere, and I stood for half an hour, huddling with my new friends, in sandals without a coat, waiting for the president to speak. Needless to say, it was well worth it."

News junkie: "I am extremely interested in politics. I am a total junkie. I watch more CNN than is probably healthy for a teenage girl."

A path to politics: "I plan to go to college in either Washington, D.C., or Baltimore. Recently, I looked at Loyola, which I really loved. I want to major in political science, but I know there are not many job opportunities coming out of that field. I may decide to switch to something different but still related, whatever that is."

What a teacher says: "Lauren has applied to be a congressional page this summer all on her own volition, and is passionate about civics and politics," said Mirinda Buxton, Perkiomen Valley's gifted-support teacher.

"She is a rapid learner, and loves wrestling with tough issues. She has high aspirations all around."

- Erica Lamberg