SIBLEY - Emily Robinson and Kayla Miller have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Now the two Lakeside High School juniors are about to embark on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and they couldn't be happier than to do it together.
"We've been through a lot together and are always doing things together," Miller said. "So, this is really going to be fun. We couldn't imagine one of us doing this without the other."
All the students in Becky Wilson's honors English class submitted essays to Claiborne Electric Cooperative's Rural Electric Youth Tour contest, but only Robinson and Miller can claim tickets for an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. as winners.
"A lot of students think they can't make a difference, but they can," Robinson said. "This (contest) proves it."
To enter this year's contest, students were asked to write a letter to any elected official discussing an issue of personal importance.
Because she was seriously injured in an automobile crash in September 2013, Robinson, the daughter of Jodi and Ricky Elliott, chose driver's education and safety as her topic.
"I did not have on my seat belt, and I was ejected from my car," Robinson said. "I think a lot of teens think that won't happen to them, which is why I didn't have on my seat belt."
Robinson's letter, which was addressed to Gov. Bobby Jindal, made an argument for mandatory high school driver's education classes with approximately 150 hours of instruction, instead of the 38-hour course students currently taken outside of school.
"A lot of people argue that schools don't teach enough life courses," Robinson said. "You may never have to graph a polynomial function in life, but you will need to put on your seat belt every day and drive in select conditions and know how to handle that."
Robinson said it wasn't difficult to find her topic.
"It was a challenge to find a way to persuade to make a change," she said. "And not just how it could be changed, but how it could logically be changed in a way that could really happen."
Miller, the daughter of Robert and Christy Miller, also addressed her letter to Jindal on a subject she finds challenging – ACT (American College Testing) requirements for college admission.
"I believe you shouldn't be required a certain ACT score and a certain GPA (grade point average) to get into a school," Miller said. "If you have the GPA required but not the ACT score, you should still be allowed to get into college – or if you have the ACT score but not the GPA."
In her opinion, the two are totally different requirements.
"The ACT is all timed," she said. "It's all about speed reading. You're not getting to the core of your intelligence."
Miller also said many students who face these issues have lower ACT scores and high grade point averages. She believes colleges should take GPA and ACT scores into account individually instead of requiring students to do well in both areas for admission.
Both girls credit Wilson, their English teacher, with instilling the tools they needed to win the competition, as well as their sophomore teacher, Daniel Baskin, for planting the seeds.
"Lakeside is a great school where we've been taught to write a quality essay on something we feel passionately about," Miller said. "She (Wilson) told us we had to make our argument but show how we wanted to fix it, too."
Wilson, who is in her fifth year as a teacher, said it excites her to have the opportunity to change a life.
"It's been a calling in my life to work with teenagers," Wilson said. "I see how we are changing lives – making our communities better, our state better and, ultimately, our country better."
Lakeside principal Johnny Rowland is proud of the girls.
"We encourage all our students to compete in contests like this," he said. "It builds self-esteem and confidence. These girls did a great job."
Robinson and Miller will become a part of the Louisiana delegation of about 30 students who will travel to Washington, D.C., in June for the National Rural Electric Youth Tour June 13. While in
Washington, they will participate in national meetings and social events with approximately 1,500 other Youth Tour delegates from across the United States. They will also get the opportunity to tour many of the national capital's most famous sites. The trip will also include a visit to Capitol Hill, where they will meet with Louisiana's congressional delegation.
"We appreciate the fact that Claiborne Electric had this contest, and we were allowed to compete in it," Miller said. "It's a great opportunity."
The Youth Tour contest was open to any high school junior whose parents or guardians get their electricity from Claiborne Electric Cooperative, or any junior who attends a school that gets its power from Claiborne Electric.