South Allegheny student earns inaugural access

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 4:57 a.m.

For South Allegheny High School sophomore Melanie Girovsky, the second inauguration of the 44th U.S. president was both a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the latest stop on a trail that started in fifth grade.

“My teacher, Mary Ann Slafka, saw leadership quality in me and nominated me for the (July 2008) National Young Scholars Program,” Melanie said. “I jumped at it and I'm glad I did, because I've loved it ever since.”

Melanie also took part in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Pittsburgh in June 2009, the National Young Leaders State Conference in March 2011, the National Young Leaders Conference in July 2012 and, through Wednesday, the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference in Washington.

“I'm very proud of her,” Melanie's mother, Jodi Girovsky of Liberty said. “(Participation in the programs) has taught her to mature and be on her own and take care of herself and others.”

The inaugural conference was one of two conducted by Envision EMI, a provider of programs for high-achieving students of all ages. A college conference also took place in conjunction with the second swearing-in of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

“All of our presidential inaugural conferences focus on delivering real-life learning experiences to enrich and inspire students,” Envision EMI president Will Lynn said.

Among those experiences were speeches by President George W. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Wesley Clark, a former North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander and Democratic presidential contender.

About Rice, Melanie said, “She is a very powerful speaker and her impact will stay with me for a long, long time.”

Of Clark, Melanie said, “He was able to reach out to us and relate to us, He used stories of when he was younger.”

Conference director Amanda Freitag sent Melanie an invitation last August, citing her role in the National Young Leaders Conference.

“At the inaugural conference, it is likely that you will reunite with friends and colleagues whom you met at NYLC,” Freitag wrote.

Melanie said “all the awesome people I got to meet as my peers” also included delegates from overseas. She recalled two from South Africa and one from Brazil.

“You just make friendships that will last a lifetime,” Melanie said. “It really helped me grow as a person.”

Melanie could meet more peers from overseas. She's been invited to take part in a future Global Youth Leadership Conference, which could take her to Washington, Europe or China.

She said her experiences planted seeds for two things she'd like to become — a congresswoman and a physician's assistant.

“I love science,” Melanie said. “I want to be with people. (Being a physician's assistant) was the best way, that stuck out to me.”

Melanie didn't meet any area legislators while in Washington. Previously, she had talked to staffers in the Washington office of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton.

She took part in what her state Rep. Bill Kortz called “an awesome opportunity” in the nation's capital.

“Remember to always set goals and work hard in school and in life to be the best you can be,” Kortz, a Democrat from Dravosburg, wrote in a letter dated Monday, “because this can carry you as far as you want to go. President Barack Obama proved this.”

For now, it's back to the classroom for Melanie, as well as extracurricular activities. She's on South Allegheny's student council and is part of its Expect Respect teen dating violence prevention program.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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