Some might prepare for a Mediterranean cruise by picking up a phrase book or two, others by researching the region's history and culture. Egg Harbor Township resident Cameron Frye, is teaching herself Italian on her computer.
This willingness to put in that extra bit of effort is just one of the 11-year-old's many qualities that earned her an invitation to join more than 200 students from across the country at the Junior National Youth Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. in June.
Cameron, who enters sixth grade at Alder Avenue Middle School in the fall, said she was initially worried about her first-ever trip without her family, but her fears quickly subsided.
"Once I was there, I wasn't nervous anymore, because on the first day we had a meet-and-mingle thing," Cameron said. "I got to know pretty much everyone."
The Junior National Young Leaders Conference is designed to give promising middle school students an opportunity to learn about leadership through a structured curriculum that includes tours of Washington, D.C. landmarks, group discussions and seminars.
The highlight of the trip for Frye was an evening trip to the Korean War Veterans, Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans memorials. She also said she enjoyed a talk given by keynote speaker Mary Beth Tinker, whose suspension from school for wearing a peace patch during the Vietnam War led to a landmark Supreme Court decision on First-Amendment rights.
Cameron kept up with her parents, Douglas and Jennifer, through texts and phone calls while she was away.
Still, on the way back from the conference, Cameron couldn't contain her excitement about her busy week - at least, not until she succumbed to her exhaustion.
"She talked for, I don't know, at least an hour straight, about all the things that she did." Jennifer Frye said. "All of a sudden we didn't hear anymore. I turned around, she was asleep in the back seat."
Cameron was nominated for the honor by Joyanne D. Miller School music teacher Lisa March, who taught her for two years. Cameron is not much of a musician by her own admission, but her academic promise is clear.
She is enrolled in the township's Gifted and Talented program, and she won first prize in her school's science fair in both second and third grade. In addition to being a strong student, Cameron is also athletic, and was named an all-star of her street hockey league in her first year after signing up on a whim.
The invitation to the conference was just another item on a growing resume, but more than that, it was a great time.
"For this age, to go on your own, to meet other like-minded students from all over the country?" Cameron's mother said. "I just thought that was an incredible opportunity."
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