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Seventh grader Selina Vazquez-Mendoza has made Georgia history as the first girls’ charter school student to be elected state president of the prestigious Beta Club for high academic achievers.

Vazquez-Mendoza, 12, is an honor student at Ivy Preparatory Academy Gwinnett. She will serve as Georgia’s Beta Club president for one year and compete for the national presidency in New Orleans this summer. The National Beta Club, which has been serving students for 80 years, is the country’s largest independent youth organization. It promotes scholarship, leadership, character, and community service, and has more than 350,000 members nationwide.

“It feels good to be the state president,” said Vazquez-Mendoza. “I want to help others who want to become leaders like me to follow their dreams.”

Vazquez-Mendoza is the first Ivy Prep Gwinnett scholar elected to a state office. She was nominated for Beta Club after a successful year in sixth grade. Ivy scholars in grades 6-8 who have good behavior and a grade point average of at least a 3.5 are recommended by teachers to be considered for membership in the elite organization.

“There is a high standard to be in Beta Club,” said Asia Aaron, an eighth grader at IPA Gwinnett. “You have to be a really good student. Beta Club helps you prepare for the future and it looks great on your resume as you apply for high school and college.”

IPA Beta Club members in grades 7-8 travel to the annual state leadership conference each year to compete against other chapters and attend leadership seminars. Vazquez-Mendoza won the state presidency during the school’s visit to the conference on Nov. 19-20 at Macon Marriott City Center.

Dr. LaShunda Hawkins, assistant principal at IPA Gwinnett, picked the seventh grader to run for state office. Vazquez-Mendoza said Ivy Prep’s focus on perseverance, leadership, engagement, and professionalism helped her to overcome some of anxiety over public speaking and meeting new people.

“I used to be really shy when I was younger,” she said. “The minute that I would stand up in front of the class my brain would go blank. Ivy Prep helps you to be more confident in yourself. You learn about leadership, public speaking, and have the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. With the help of my family, my friends, and my teachers, I overcame my fears.”

During the Macon conference, Vazquez- Mendoza cheered on her Beta Club teammates as they competed in the Quiz Bowl, Tower-building, Banner Design, and Living Literature events. Then, it was her turn. She battled butterflies in her stomach as she practiced her speech for the election. Her challenge seemed daunting. She had to introduce herself to a conference of more than 400 students, gain their trust quickly, and convince them to support her bid for president.

“Sophia, the Beta Club president at Ivy, told me to come into the restroom and repeat my speech over and over loud enough so that everybody could hear me when I walked up to the podium,” Vazquez-Mendoza recalled. “She kept telling me ‘Louder! Louder!’”

Other members also came in to coach her. “It was a wonderful team effort,” Dr. Hawkins, Beta Club sponsor, said.

selinaVazquez-Mendoza was the ninth and final candidate to give her speech to the packed room. Her Ivy Beta Club team members joined her on stage to do a skit and dance performance afterwards. Then, voting was held.

The following day, Vazquez-Mendoza was called on stage and named state president.

“When they announced my name as the winner, everybody screamed,” she said. “I called my parents right after. They were very happy.”

The good news brought Veronica Vazquez-Mendoza, Selina’s mother to tears. Her father Jose Vazquez-Mendoza was also floored. “I cried because I was so happy,” Veronica Vazquez-Mendoza said. “I knew that she was smart, but I never expected anything like this. I couldn’t believe it. Her father was so excited.”

Mr. Chaz Patterson, principal of IPA Gwinnett, is still beaming over the win. “I’m elated and overjoyed, not for just the school, but for Selina,” he said. “I have seen tremendous growth in her. It’s great to see that her fellow students in the state of Georgia also see her leadership potential. This is just a stepping stone in her limitless potential.”

The seventh grader says her win is proof that with the support of teachers, friends, and family that students can overcome anything. “I want to tell my fellow scholars that even though they have obstacles, they can achieve their goals,” she said. “If we help each other, we don’t have to struggle as much.”

The entire Ivy Prep Beta Club shared in her victory, Dr. Hawkins said. “Even though we had some sad faces after tough team competitions, when Selina won the presidency, she did it with the help of her sisters at Ivy. The fact that we walked away with the state presidency shows that our girls did an awesome job.”

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