Sunlake High junior aims to be Florida's first female governor

Sunlake High student Rachel Floyd, 17, was selected to serve on the Governor’s Youth Commission and recently began a one-year term.

MICHELE MILLER | Times

Sunlake High student Rachel Floyd, 17, was selected to serve on the Governor’s Youth Commission and recently began a one-year term.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

It's an oft-asked question posed to kids from the early years when being a firefighter or being a movie star seem equally plausible to all the way through high school when the adults in the room are expecting a more serious response.

For 17-year-old Rachel Floyd, the answer is an easy one.

"I want to be the first female governor of Florida," she says without batting an eye. "I really want to go into politics. I'm really interested in government and public policy."

The Sunlake High junior has already dipped a toe in the school's political pool, serving on the student council, the debate club and winning office as student body secretary and vice president in her sophomore and junior years, respectively.

Add to that the stint she recently took on as one of 12 students from across the state serving on the 2012 Governor's Florida Youth Commission. At the end of January, Rachel traveled to Tallahassee during Children's Advocacy Week to begin serving her term on the commission, which is now in its second year.

Commissioners' duties? To advise and give recommendations to Florida's Children and Youth Cabinet on a variety of issues affecting children — from drug abuse to human trafficking — and to help get other youths involved in the political process.

Rachel was plucked from a pool of some 50 to 60 students in middle school through community college, said Jason Zaborske, 37, the statewide coordinator for Children's Advocacy Week, United Way. "Typically, these are youth participating in debate clubs, or are active in their local community, have a specific passion or cause they care about or have a desire to have an impact and get other youth engaged in the process of policy making and advocacy on the local or statewide level."

It seemed a good fit for Rachel, the daughter of Rushe Middle School social studies teacher Kelly Floyd.

"I've been taking her to the polls ever since she was little," said Floyd, who worked hard to instill a sense of civic duty with dinner discussions on current events.

"I read the newspaper and watch the news every day," Rachel said.

During Children's Advocacy Week, youth commissioners took part in variety of activities including a Teens Only Town Hall Meeting. They also visited the Capitol to sit in on a legislative session concerning a bill on human trafficking and meet with the state education commissioner, Gerard Robinson.

"I thought it was a great opportunity," Rachel said. "It really exposed me to what happens at the Capitol rather than what we see on television. It really gave me a higher appreciation of what our community leaders do."

As part of her commitment, Rachel researched and reported on the issues of drug addiction and early childhood education.

Among her findings so far: "Florida is the oxy express," she said. "Florida prescribes more OxyContin than any other state in the country. And even though 400 pain clinics were shut down, hundreds more are still open in the state — even with the new database."

Besides attending future conferences, Rachel will also try to drum up the interest of her peers and is planning on holding a presentation at the school encouraging them to climb on the band wagon and register to vote.

"I can't wait to vote, but I find a lot of my peers aren't interested in government. They're apathetic. They're like, 'Who cares?' " said Rachel, who is planning on a future run for Class of 2013 student body president and one for chapter president of the Junior State of America Debate Club. "The thing is, we're going to be affected by who's elected."

Sunlake High junior aims to be Florida's first female governor 03/13/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 10:55pm]

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