LIVINGSTON -- In a lot of ways, Izzak Mireles is a typical 13-year-old kid. He plays soccer, likes to listen to music, competes in track and cross country, and has a doting mother.
But Izzak is different from most 13-year-olds.
He's going to the presidential inauguration in January.
The Livingston Middle School eighth-grader got an invitation to Washington, D.C., through People to People, an organization based in Spokane, Wash., that offers educational international travel opportunities to elementary, middle and high school students. As a member of the group for the past couple of years, Izzak has been able to travel to Australia and Europe, learning about cultures and people.
At least 1 million people are expected to turn out for the inauguration Jan. 20. Some crowd estimates range much higher. Tickets to any of the main or peripheral events are both hard to get and expensive. Security is expected to be the tightest it's ever been for a presidential investiture because Obama has received a record number of threats both before and after his election.
Izzak's glad to be going under any conditions. The invitation to the inauguration came as a surprise to both mother and son. But Izzak is excited about going. Not only does he get to see Barack Obama sworn in as president, he also will meet newscaster Tom Brokaw and Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City.
"I'm so proud of him," said his mother, Flora Mireles. "I never thought that he would experience these things so young."
Livingston Middle School Principal Filomena Sousa agreed with Izzak's mother. "It's a dream of a lifetime, especially to an adult," he said. "We appreciate it so much, because we know how special this will be for him."
Izzak has worked hard to get where he is today. Raised by a single mom, Izzak has always been a good student. Sousa said Izzak is a lot more than that.
"He's a great kid, he's a strong academic student and a strong athletic student," Sousa said.
Izzak has played sports since he was in preschool, starting with T-ball. He was on the all-star baseball team three years, and he also played soccer at the same time. "I had to decide what I wanted to do," Izzak said. "I chose soccer."
That choice led the polite eighth-grader to play not only on the middle school's soccer team, but with the traveling soccer team, the Turlock Tornadoes.
And it's not just soccer Izzak excels in. He is also on the Livingston Middle School wrestling team and the cross country team. He has run the mile in 5:03, and loves cross-country.
Then there's his school- work. Asked if he was a straight-A student, he first said yes, then thought about it. "Well, I had a B once, so I guess not," he said.
Some of the academic achievements Izzak has earned include numerous student of the week, month and quarter awards, highest score in mathematics, perfect attendance, honor roll student, a Presidential Award in physical education and a third place in the Merced County Writing Festival.
Despite all the awards heaped on Izzak, he remains a humble kid. He's quick to smile, and his mother is justifiably proud of him.
"He's always been a good boy, a good student," Flora Mireles said. "I've been so blessed."
Sousa said that someday Izzak will be telling his children and grandchildren about going to the inauguration, but in the meantime, Izzak has plans for four years from now.
"I want to go to the 2012 Olympics," Izzak said. "I want to run in the long-distance track competition."
With the determination and hard work he's already shown, Izzak could be in London four years from now, representing the United States.
"He's the kind of student that we wish we had more of," said Sousa. "I am looking forward to seeing what he will do in the future."
There's a famous photograph of a 17-year-old Bill Clinton, wearing a Boys State T-shirt, shaking hands with John F. Kennedy in the nation's capital. We know what happened to young Bill.
Why not young Izzak?
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.