Three Camden students were chosen to participate in a Latino youth leadership training program

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At LEAP Academy in Camden, NJ, a press conference to announce the three students from Camden who will be participating in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Ready to Lead NextGen program. Here, US Senator Robert Menendez shakes the hand of Michelle Panchana, who will be participating in the R2L program. ( APRIL SAUL / Staff )

Three Camden students were chosen to participate in a Latino youth leadership training program this summer in the nation’s capital.

Jonathan Ramirez and Peter Rivera Jr., both students at Camden’s LEAP Academy Charter School, and Michelle Melanie Panchana, a student at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls' High School in Philadelphia, will be attending the 2013 Ready To Lead Next Generation, or R2L NextGen.

The program was created and is hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a Hispanic nonprofit and nonpartisan leadership development organization. The CHCI invites 40 high school students from around the country, who are seen as future Latino leaders, to spend a week in Washington, DC.

During the the week-long program, the students will learn the importance of their role as engaged citizens and how they can affect positive change in their communities and their nation, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force. The students will also meet with Latino leaders and visit historic sites.

R2L NextGen is mostly sponsored through private businesses and foundations. The three Camden students are being sponsored by Mafco Worldwide Corporation, a licorice extract manufacturer headquartered in Camden.

The three students are:

  • Michelle Melanie Panchana, 16, a rising senior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls' High School in Philadelphia who lives in Camden. Michelle is an honors student who is also on her school’s swim team. Michelle is also an active member of the Puerto Rican Unity for Progress' (PRUP) Youth Empowerment Network Program where she helps with several volunteer projects for the communities of Camden and Philadelphia. She hopes to go to college and earn a nursing degree.
  • Jonathan Ramirez, 18, is a rising senior and 2014 class president at LEAP Academy University Charter School. Jonathan also is taking dual enrollment college courses through the Rutgers Future Scholars Program. He hopes to go to college and pursue a career in medicine.
  • Peter Rivera, Jr., 16,  is a rising senior at LEAP Academy S.T.E.M. High School. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the LEAP Robotics club. Peter is also on LEAP’s basketball and baseball team and volunteers at the Camden Children's Garden. He too intends to go to college next year.

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