CARROLLWOOD — High school junior Krista Reinhardt has her whole life ahead of her.
But she wants to get started on it now.
She has plenty of possibilities. She plays high school golf, plays guitar and sings at her church, enjoys a 4.0 grade point average and, oh, one other thing: She might want to be a politician.
Reinhardt has already gotten off to a fast start. She participates in the YMCA Youth in Government organization, where she is active in debate and is now director of legislative affairs for the group. She has spoken to the state senate in Tallahassee and has strong political beliefs that she considers part of her future.
She represented Hillsborough County before the Senate after writing an essay that spoke of the importance of youth in government. She spoke of the apathy that many teens display toward government and community activities. She’s been in the program for five years after being talked into joining by her mother, Kellie.
“I didn’t want to join and I didn’t know anything about it,” Krista said. “She told me she signed me up and then it seemed like it might be fun.”
The students in the Youth in Government program are serious about being active in the political process. The group debates ideas, not people. It isn’t, she said, about dividing people, but helping teens work together to get things done. Teens should have a voice in Tallahassee, she said.
More than 700 students from YMCAs all over the state participate, but Krista has made her name known pretty quickly.
“When I was a first-year delegate, I learned how to write bills, do all the research, debate, everything,” Krista said. “It was a fascinating experience. When you can make legislation, that’s pretty great.”
Her favorite cause is the fight against cyber bullying. She has experienced some of it herself and knows that it is an issue that cannot be ignored. Home schooled, she spends plenty of time on social activities and even plays for the Durant High School golf team.
Now Krista is making an impact on the next generation of leaders. She is mentoring eighth-graders who are involved in Youth in Government who are practicing for their first experiences in Tallahassee. She also emphasizes the importance of being involved.
“We are the next generation of leaders,” Krista said. “Doing things like this, or doing an internship, is important. Everyone needs to learn civics. There is a lot of open thought at the YMCA and people just need to share ideas without arguing.”
The arguing part has ruined many a friendship, she said, but not in the Youth in Government program.
“No matter what the problem is or how much we argue, when it is over, we are all hugging at the end of the day,” Krista said.
For her essay, Krista received a $500 scholarship. She wants to go to school in the Tennessee or North Carolina area, and there are already schools looking at her for her academic skills, as well as her skills on the golf course.
“It’s always great to have options,” Krista said. “If we choose to work together we can make a better community.”