When Glance High School student Jose Echevarria arrived in Oregon at age 9 he spoke no English and had no political favors to call in.
At 16, he has a resume that should put him on an Ivy League track, and he left this past week end for Washington, D.C., to be a U.S. congressional page.
“This is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done,” Echevarria said from his home in Cornelius. “It took a lot of thinking.”
Echevarria won over the three judges with his straight-A grades, school leadership positions and acceptance to a Latino law camp at Georgetown University. He was one of 18 Oregon applicants. It was his character and the trust others have in him, said Susan Marcus, one of the judges and a retired teacher.
U.S. Rep. David Wu sponsored Echevarria, but the teenager will serve all 435 House members, delivering messages, preparing the House chambers and raising the flag at the Capitol, among other duties. He will join 71 other House pages.
Page appointments rotate among the members of Congress. Wu has sponsored three pages during his 10 years in office.
The teen-ager was worried because he will not be able to take his Advanced Placement exams at the end of the school year. The page’s boarding school in Washington, D.C., doesn’t offer them.
Echevarria sought the advice of counselors at the University of Portland, his top college choice in Oregon. They said the page job would stand out on his application. Echevarria also has designs on Georgetown and Harvard.
Echevarria was born in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, to parents with little education. His father, a nursery manager, taught himself to read and write. Echevarria said his mother, a hotel housekeeper, is illiterate.
“Mexico gave me life, and this country has given me the opportunity to use that life,” said Echevarria.
“I’m smart in the sense that I always try to do better,” he said.
He has such a respect and value for education, said Michelle Shigemasa, Echevarria’s freshman language arts teacher, now retired.
“He had this calm assuredness about himself,” she said. “Taking a risk is not a fear for him. It’s just a logical step to see if it’s workable.”
That impressed Marcus when she judged Echevarria’s application and essay. “He could handle adversity and prosper,” she said.
Echevarria will start his day in school at 6:45 a.m. and end usually before noon when the House of Representatives meets. Then, his job begins.
He”ll receive about $20,200 for his five months of work, but he must pay $400 a month for room and board. His room will be inspected weekly, and he’ll have a 10 p.m. curfew most days. He probably will have two roommates.
His dream is to meet Obama, whom he described as his hero after his parents.
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