Forest Grove teen wows the judges with her winning essays and her personal convictions

This summer, 15-year-old Jasmine Wilson plans to read, travel and read some more.

Oh yeah - and in between, the spunky Forest Grove teenager might find time to write a couple more thoughtful essays.

Wilson, who will be a junior at Heritage Christian School in Hillsboro next fall, has honed the writing craft to near-perfection.

At least that's what the folks judging some of the contests she's been entering seem to think.

In February, Wilson entered a Lewis and Clark College essay contest about the famed explorers' Corps of Discovery and won an all-expenses-paid trip to North Dakota. She'll travel there in August to study the Mandan tribe of Native Americans.

Last month, she entered a contest she saw online about the Holocaust, asking why people should remember that horrific event and what could be done to prevent a similar situation.

'I didn't win, but through my research I learned that there is a kind of holocaust going on in Darfur, Sudan,' Wilson said. 'I got kind of fired up about it, so I planned informational meetings about it at my church and my school.'

Describing herself as 'someone with leadership skills who cares about other people,' Wilson was moved to write another essay earlier this month.

Tucked in the book stacks at the Hillsboro Public Library was an invitation for high school students to think and write about how they'd handle the job if they were their town's mayor.

Wilson submitted her version of wishful-mayor thinking - and came out on top.

The real-life Hillsboro mayor, Tom Hughes, presented a beaming Wilson with a first-place certificate at the June 20 city council meeting for winning the community's 'If I Were Mayor . . . ' essay contest.

'It had to be 300 to 750 words, and I think mine was in the 700s,' said Wilson, who lives with her grandmother, Beverly Cornelius.

In her essay, Wilson said that if she were mayor, she'd become 'aware of the challenges' and 'be prepared to rise above them.' (See excerpts from the essay, below).

A mayor, she asserted, 'must not only lead the community, but must also understand who the community is.'

Her pragmatic side coached her to write that 'the mayor is not going to be able to please everyone.' Still, she said, she'd strive to make the community a haven where 'citizens can harvest their dreams.'

Bringing people together, Wilson concluded, would be her major focus if she were mayor - something she's tried hard to do since she was in eighth grade at Heritage.

'I was on this kick back then that I was going to be the first woman president,' said Wilson, who has served as her school's treasurer and on the Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council.

Next year, Wilson will be president of Heritage School's junior class.

'But I finally figured out that my reason for it was my own pride,' she noted. 'I didn't really have any solid goals for America, so I decided to do some thinking about that.'

It was a natural devolution for Wilson to rein in her political aspirations and focus on the mayoral role.

'For me, in the essay it was important to talk about the whole community - its diverse ethnicity and points of view,' Wilson said.

She did, in so many words.

A widely-read scholar whose favorite genre of the moment is historical fiction, Wilson is looking forward to sharing part of her summer with Cornelius at Crater Lake.

Then, she'll turn her attention to her final two years of high school and what's waiting beyond that corner.

Whether it's as president or as mayor, Wilson pledged to put her gifts to good use. 'I know I want to make a difference in people's lives,' she said.

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