Local teen, gran to jet to Obama’s ball

2009-01-13 00:00

FOR many people, the opportunity to meet their life hero and role model only happens in their dreams, but for a Newcastle schoolgirl, that dream is about to become a reality.

Ishara Ramkissoon (17), a grade 12 pupil of Newcastle High, is jetting off to the United States today to meet president-elect Barack Obama, where she will attend both his inauguration ceremony, as well as an inaugural ball.

Ishara is among 44 pupils from around the world, but one of only two from the continent, chosen by People to People International, a non-profit organisation that promotes international understanding and friendship through education, cultural and humanitarian activities, to participate in this auspicious event.

“People to People International sent an invitation to my school to get entrants for the programme. I was one of those nominated and I was later contacted for an interview process. By mid-December, I was notified that I had been accepted.”

She said the selection process called for a strong academic achiever, in addition to leadership qualities. And evidently, Ishara’s record speaks for itself.

Last year, she was first in the Amajuba district in the World Knowledge Olympiad hosted by Absa Bank. She won two medals in the Eskom Expo, and was crowned the best English participant in the speech and drama eisteddfod in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The schedule for her two-week trip will include attending the World Leadership Summit in Washington DC, visiting the White House, the Capitol building, the home of George Washington, the Lincoln Memorial, the CNN headquarters, as well as all important museums that portray world history — all expenses paid.

“It has been a dream of mine to meet Mr Barack Obama and I feel honoured to be given an opportunity to experience and represent my country at an event of this magnitude,” Ishara told The Witness yesterday.

Her track record as an “Obama follower” has seen her read Obama’s books The Audacity of Hope and Change We Can Believe In. She followed Obama through his campaign to victory and even woke up at 3 am in the morning to listen to his acceptance speech.

“I respect him. I feel that he is the Nelson Mandela of the 21st century. It takes a great and big person to fight for what they believe in. As an African, he never shied away … even though he did not fit the status quo. Now he holds one of the biggest jobs in the world and I respect a person of his calibre.”

She plans on asking Obama whether his African heritage will influence his governance of the U.S. and if so, what role it will play.

Her advice to the youth comes in the words of Obama and Mahatma Gandhi respectively: “Change can take place if you can believe” and “Be the change you want in the world”.

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