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East Hampton Senior Earns Top Hispanic Youth Leadership Award

Jessica Gutiérrez says trip to Albany was "once in a lifetime experience."

East Hampton High School was well represented at the 23rd annual Angelo del Toro Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany this past weekend, and one of the students walked away with a top scholarship award.

Jessica Gutiérrez, an 18-year-old senior, was one out of 10 students awarded this honor, according Julia Sabil, the high school's Hispanic Leaders advisor. Maria Albarracín, a senior, and Karen Vega, a junior, also participated along with 200 other young Latinos, debating bills at a mock assembly at the state capitol building. They also met with the Chairman of the Institute, Assemblyman Philip Ramos, and attended workshops.

A Springs resident, Gutiérrez said she will use the $1,000 scholarship to attend college and pursue a degree in the medical field. She hasn't decided yet where she will attend, but hopes to study nursing.

A native of Ecuador, she said she is proof that "anything can be accomplished." She came to America when she was 9, but met challenges head-on, learning the language and excelling in academics. She is enrolled in several AP classes and is the vice president of the Hispanic Leaders club. She has also served as the captain of the varsity lacrosse and soccer teams.

Gutiérrez said she enjoyed the leadership conference last weekend. "It was amazing experience — once in a lifetime," she said. She particularly enjoyed taking part in mock debates. She was given the role of Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, during a debate on patient's rights at hospital. "His point of views were pretty much like mine," she said, adding that she believes in not requiring a patient's immigration status to receive treatment.

"Throughout the history of this event, East Hampton has consistently won top honors," Sabil said. "Overall, out of all the delegations across the state that attended, Suffolk County secured 30 percent of the scholarships. A big thank you to Jessica for once again continuing our legacy."

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