If there's one thing that Roberto Gonzalez Jr. took away from a recent trip to the Washington, D.C., area, it was a greater appreciation of American history.
As a participant in the March 24-29 Junior National Young Leaders Conference, Roberto visited numerous historical sites, including the Liberty Bell, Harpers Ferry and the site where the Declaration of Independence was penned.
"I wasn't really a big fan of history, but now I pay more attention," said Roberto, the 13-year-old son of Roberto Gonzalez Sr. and Magali Gonzalez, of Martinez.
A seventh-grader at Lakeside Middle School, Roberto was nominated to attend the conference by Samaritan Simmons, his math teacher.
"Roberto has the leadership qualities that will enable him to succeed in his endeavors," Simmons said. "He respects authority and has an interest in learning."
When Roberto found out that Simmons had nominated him for the trip, he was surprised and excited.
"I thought it would be a good learning experience and it was," he said. "I'll never forget it."
Among one of the most impressive sites that Roberto visited was Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. Because he had not read about that particular Civil War battle site in textbooks, he was intrigued by the visit.
"I really liked the historical profile of John Brown, who was a hero there, but actually lost the battle," he said.
Roberto said he has always thought what he has read in books and studied in class was interesting, but never imagined that he'd visit some of the sites.
While Roberto contemplates a second trip this summer with alumni of the Junior National Leaders Conference, he will continue participating in the numerous extracurricular activities that take up most of his time.
A sports enthusiast, Roberto plays football, baseball and basketball and is on a travel basketball team. He also plays the tenor saxophone in the school band and takes piano lessons.
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