Trip to DC

Some students strive to become leaders in their own communities. Junior Benjamin Paladino took his leadership to the next level.

Last year, Paladino, who is the president of the Little Rock Mayor’s Youth Council, received an e-mail invitation to apply for YEF (Youth, Education, and Family) Council. Paladino said, “Last year, I got an e-mail from the NLC [National League of Cities], an organization of cities that share ideas and supplies with each other, to apply for the YEF council. I was the first student from the state of Arkansas be a part of the council.”

The YEF council consists of Mayors, city council members, field experts, and four youth from around the United States. “The youth are there to provide a young person’s perspective on policies that the NLC is trying to promote,” said Paladino. “I was pretty surprised that I was chosen to be a member of it. The main reason that I was interested in it was that it mentioned a free trip to Washington D.C. in the application.”

Since he is part of YEF council, Paladino had the chance to plan the youth sessions of the most recent NLC meeting. The meeting lasted five days and began on Saturday, February 27. Paladino said, “I planned the White House tour for all the youth members. I also played a part in the planning of all the youth activities.”

Paladino not only planned a general youth meeting, but he was also involved in a REAL (Race, Equity, And Leadership) meeting. Surprisingly, the NLC chose Paladino to give a five to ten minute speech about racial issues in his community in front of city leaders from around the country. Paladino said, “It was the first real speech that I had ever given. It was probably the most nervous thing I had done. I only knew two people out of the group that I was speaking to.

“It took me about a week to write the speech. I had to make sure I had everything right. The speech had to go down without a hitch. I read through the speech with family members to make sure it was not too risqué.”

Paladino read his speech to his twin brother, junior Thomas Paladino. Thomas said, “When I heard his speech, I was a little surprised that he chose to speak about racial issues, but it was something he was passionate about.”

Paladino’s speech garnered attention from a major city leader, even though he did not witness the speech. Paladino said, “A few days later, I received an e-mail from Little Rock Mayor [Mark] Stodola, congratulating me on my speech. He had heard from other city officials that it was really good.”

Paladino gave another speech at the opening session of the NLC general assembly. Paladino said, “I was able to speak at the general assembly in front of over 2,000 city leaders, mayors, and some youth leaders to welcome them to the conference. Luckily, this speech only had to be about one to two minutes long.”

Senior Andrew Kilgore, who attended the NLC as a member of Maumelle’s Youth Council, witnessed Paladino’s speech. “I was surprised to see him up there giving a speech,” said Kilgore. “I thought he represented not only Arkansas and Little Rock, but also the school well.”

During the White House tour, Paladino received a great honor. He said, “I was on many conference calls with the White House staff to plan the tour. One of White House staff members, who was speaking about involving yourself in the community, mentioned my name when he talked about examples of people who involve themselves in their community. It was an honor to be mentioned by the White House staffer.”

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