A world traveler shines

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Diego Garcia is a 17-year-old senior at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington and a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Herndon. At an age when most students would be happy with the traditional family vacation at the beach, Garcia has traveled to 52 different countries. And it's not the usual destinations; his favorite place was Egypt, and he just returned from India.

Garcia's mother, Andrea, works for United Airlines and that job has perks. The family, including his father, Jorge, gets to fly anywhere the airline flies, on standby, for a very good fare.

He was in Egypt around the time of Arab Spring, the democratic uprising that began in 2011. He also had a front-row seat to the Palestinian uprising in Israel - the intifada.

Politics, both national and international, has always interested Garcia.

"I love politics," he said. "I'm a news junkie."

This summer he will intern for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

That passion for politics drove him to run for student body vice president, which he won. He also organized a voter registration effort at the school that got about 86 percent of eligible students registered.

Garcia has been a team member on several academic competition teams. He was a member of O'Connell's Academic WorldQuest team in a regional competition sponsored by the World Affairs Councils of America. The team answered questions on current events and world affairs. In preparation for the competition, Garcia studied the history of Oman. The group came in third among 20 teams from the Washington area.

Garcia also participated in a business case competition at the University of Virginia. His team analyzed a business model and presented a critique.

As president of the Stock and Finance Club, Diego has a podcast, Knightly News, that gives stock tips and discusses current affairs. The club doesn't invest real money, it's just practice, he said, adding, "It's fun to do the research."

His favorite reading materials are <>The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker.

Academics are always in the forefront for Garcia. He's a National Merit Commended Scholar and he will attend Harvard University this fall to study international relations.

In preparation for college, Garcia will join other incoming freshmen at a special weeklong wilderness program designed to help them adjust to the academic rigors of Harvard. There is, of course, freshman orientation, but this is deeper.

"I feel like the First-Year Outdoor Program will allow me to actually make lasting connections with the people I'll be spending the next four years with," he said.

Garcia said his experiences at O'Connell have shaped him in a positive way.

"(O'Connell) has allowed me to shine," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016