Saturday, April 22, 2006

President Bush to Honor an Ethnic Abanian Student

Liridon Leti to be given President's Volunteer Service Award on Saturday

Keith Matheny
The Desert Sun
April 21, 2006
Palm Springs High School senior Liridon Leti is a busy young man, between school, his job, his volunteer work with the Boys and Girls Club, the soccer team, and time with his family.

On Saturday afternoon, Leti is squeezing something else into his busy schedule - meeting the president of the United States.

As reported on thedesertsun.com, Leti, 17, will meet President George W. Bush at the Palm Springs International Airport, after Bush arrives aboard Air Force One.

Bush is to present Leti with the President's Volunteer Service Award. Bush has provided the award to 490 young people throughout the nation since March 2002, "to thank them for making a difference in the lives of others," a White House press release stated.

"I was just thinking to myself, 'Wow; the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, and I get to meet him,'" Leti said.

Dean Moore, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, said White House representatives contacted the club earlier this month seeking worthy candidates for the presidential award.

"They were looking for some kids in the community, young adults who have made a big difference," Moore said.

Leti was an obvious choice, Moore said. Through the Boys and Girls Club's Keystone Club he has completed more than 500 hours of volunteer service. He was named the local club's Boy of the Year for 2006.

Leti has mentored younger children and volunteered to mow lawns and do landscaping for area seniors in need, Moore said. He has volunteered to clean up and place American flags at the graves of veterans for Veterans Day and Memorial Day as well, Moore said.

"When he wasn't able to vote yet, he went out and helped teens who were old enough to vote get registered and vote in the last presidential election," Moore said.

Liridon's father, Shani Leti, reacted to the news with pride.

"Any parent in the world would want a son like him," he said.

Liridon's award from Bush has special meaning for his father. He and Liridon's mother, Sadrije, are immigrant Albanians from Kosovo. Shani said he came to the U.S. in 1971, a "second-class citizen" who "had no right to exist" in his home country, oppressed by Communists and the Serbians.

Shani called his son's meeting with the president "the American dream come true."

"Everything about this country, I love it," he said, adding that his son's first name means "freedom-lover" in Albanian.

Liridon said he hoped his meeting the president will inspire younger children to get active in the Boys and Girls Club, which he called an "excellent experience."

"It gives you lifelong lessons, and teaches you to work to reach your goals," he said.

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