Junior Maya Leavitt to represent school at nationally recognized mock government program

TEMPLETON — One Templeton High School student has been chosen to attend the Girls State Conference at the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Convention (Girls State) this June at Sacramento State University. Junior Maya Leavitt was selected to attend in June with Addison (Addy) George as her alternate.

Girls State is a mock government program where American Legion Auxiliary members teach participants to become knowledgeable stewards of freedom and democracy, as well as being patriotic citizens. It is an honor to be nominated as less than one percent of high school juniors from schools throughout California are selected for this nationally recognized conference. 

Five students were nominated by their teachers from a list of the top 30 percent of academics in their grade. They were then interviewed by two Girls State representatives on Friday, Feb. 2. 

“Maya is an absolutely stellar student who is exceptionally bright, persevering, diligent, and an active participant in all she does,” said THS social studies teacher Shawn Barnes. “Her academic achievements and strong leadership ability are impressive, and she puts 100 percent effort into all her endeavors. Maya lights up the room with her cheerful personality and kindness, and she is an outstanding role model for people of all ages. I greatly admire her genuine concern for the well-being of others, her empathy, her strong sense of integrity, and her willingness to always help others. Maya has made a positive and lasting impact on Templeton High School, and I know her positive impact will go beyond our classroom walls and follow her into her future.” 

Leavitt, who has watched two older siblings go to a state conference, was familiar with State Conference and excited when she was nominated by her teachers. 

“I remember walking in when they told us who we were nominated with and seeing the other four candidates and seeing the great people that they are. It’s a great honor to be counted with them and to have the teachers select us,” said Leavitt of the nomination.

The four other nominated students were Jayden Fielder, Ali Cathcart, Audrey Higgins, and Addy George. While some were familiar with the State Conference, it was a happy surprise to all of them.

THS social studies teacher Grant Craton said of Fielder, “Jayden is a truly outstanding person who is caring, thinks deeply about things, and works hard to achieve her goals. She shows kindness to others and always tries to make a positive difference around campus. Her actions teach us how important it is to be both compassionate and determined in everything we do.”

Fielder, who is looking into studying viticulture and enology after high school, felt honored for the opportunity. “I was immediately excited because this is a great opportunity, and to even be honored and nominated by my teachers was a big personal win,” she said.

THS special education staff member Michelle Nikolaou said of George, “Addy’s inner light shines on each of us everyday. She is a phenomenal young woman with a bright future. Addy brings joy to all those around her. I am honored to be her teacher.”

Looking to study biology or nursing and possibly join the Air Force like her dad, George said, “Understanding the process we went through without knowing and changing who we are to get chosen, so I feel like it was exciting to know that we had been noticed.”

THS staff member Jeremy Hightower said of Cathcart, “Throughout my interactions with Allison Cathcart, she has consistently exhibited strong leadership skills, a keen sense of responsibility, and an unwavering commitment to community service. Her smile and her heart for others is unmatched. She’s unselfish, humble, and a true joy to be around. Allie is kind to all and consistently encourages others to be their best.”

“It was awesome being included with these amazing girls and getting this opportunity to be interviewed. It was a great honor to be noticed by people on campus,” said Cathcart, who is looking forward to attending Cal Poly and earning her teaching credentials to become an elementary school teacher. 

THS ASB Director and Link Crew Advisor Matt MacFarlane said of Higgins, “Audrey is an amazingly successful person. She is driven academically, gifted athletically, lives with integrity and empathy, and is wise beyond her year. She expects a lot from herself and looks for ways to leave everything better than when she found it. I guess what I appreciate most about her is that she truly cares about others and about making a difference in their lives.”

“I felt so honored to be a part of it [State Conference nominations],” said Higgins of the experience. “It’s really a prestigious thing you get invited to number one … I was surprised and felt so honored.”

Higgens said the interviews left her inspired to pursue her aspirations to be a leader in life. With Stanford University as her dream school, she looks forward to studying business and one day living in New York City.

All five nominees were more excited for being noticed by their teachers.

Fielder explains, “Being recognized for the person I am has meant a lot to me … having people be proud of me, that in itself is enough for me. Whoever gets nominated deserves it.”

“You didn’t have to pretend you’re somebody you’re not … you were just chosen for being you,” added George on their State Conference experience.

Feature Image: (From left) Jayden Fielder, Ali Cathcart, Addy George, Maya Leavitt, and Audrey Higgins were all nominated to attend the Girls State Conference in Sacramento this June. Leavitt was eventually selected to go to the conference, with George as the alternate. Photo by Matt MacFarlane