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Chelsea Clinton touts leadership, activism at Austin all-girls school

After receiving an earsplitting cheer from students as she walked into the packed gymnasium of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders on Thursday, Chelsea Clinton in turn applauded them.

Ann Richards students each year complete thousands of hours of service projects, from feeding the homeless at Austin-area churches to building schools in Costa Rica.

“I am so impressed by all the girls here at Ann Richards. It’s really exciting to be with so many strong young women leaders. It very much is what the name of the school declares it to be,” said Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “What I find so inspiring about this school is that it gives girls the confidence to be leaders today, not only the expectation they’ll be leaders in the future.”

Clinton, who visited the Austin school to promote her new book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!” spoke about how young people can bring about change in their communities and beyond.

Clinton said she was inspired by children across the world who have fought elephant poaching, created healthy recipes to prevent diabetes and started campaigns to fight poverty.

The girls of the Ann Richards school have been added to her list.

The last three graduating classes of the school have completed more than 20,000 service hours combined, said principal Jeanne Goka. Service projects are integrated in almost all of students’ classes and is part of the school’s core mission.

Students have worked with the Austin Fire Department to wire their uniforms so that firefighters can communicate with each other during a service call. They are developing games for local zoo animals so they are mentally stimulated while in captivity. Two years ago, they repurposed an old Airstream trailer so that teachers — who donated their lounge to the custodial staff — had a place to meet and work.

“I can’t wait to follow your paths forward,” Clinton said, as she concluded her talk in the gym. “I can’t wait to see what all of you will do next.”

Some of the girls who were able to speak with Clinton on Thursday during a question-and-answer session said Clinton’s encouragement validated the work that they do in their community.

Perla Grimaldo Ramirez, a senior, recognizes that she received a lot of help from the community, especially when she and her family lived in a shelter some years ago. She now gives back by volunteering at the same shelter as well as at St. David’s hospital where she loves working with children.

“Seeing a real life example of a woman who was a young woman leader who … is teaching other girls and other kids around the world to do just the same — I think that’s what’s really inspiring to know, also that there are people like us who are making a change,” Perla said.

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