GRANGEVILLE When Grangeville High School senior Kyra Arnzen first got the letter in the mail from National Youth Leadership Forum for Law and CSI, she thought it was spam.
“Is this for real?” she asked GHS counselor Susan Morris.
And it was. Based on classes she had taken in the past – forensics, psychology and sociology – she received an invitation to apply for the Washington, D.C., conference. So, she gave it a whirl.
“I was excited to find out I had been chosen,” she smiled.
Spurring her interest in all things forensic was time spent with her grandpa.
“He’s a veteran and I was in seventh grade and his favorite show was NCIS,” she recalled. “I spent a lot of time watching that and then started to become really interested in forensic science and the FBI.”
Arnzen began the process of fund-raising for the trip – although she received a scholarship of $800 from the conference leaders, she would have to come up with the remaining airfare and fees on her own.
Through her mother and stepdad’s business, Shiznits, she offered a fund-raising breakfast, received substantial donations from the Grangeville Lions Club and Nez Perce Ag., worked and obtained donations from family and friends.
“I really appreciate everyone who helped me be able to do this,” she said upon her recent return from the six-day conference. Her mom, Sheila, and stepdad, Tyler Bransford, accompanied her and visited family in Virginia while she was at the forum.
Arnzen said she was “overwhelmed” at the size of Washington, D.C., its people and traffic.
“But it was amazing,” she grinned.
Separated from her parents right away, at a hotel in the outer-suburb of Chantilly, and shooed away with 351 youth from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Arnzen didn’t have time to feel alone.
“We got right down to business and they kept us very busy,” she said. “I was proud to be the only student there from Idaho.”
The students were mixed up and divided into groups then, following “ice-breakers” to get to know one another, began to learn about the judiciary system (“I already had a good handle on this from my teachers at GHS,” Arnzen smiled.)
They then participated in mock trials, working in various categories of defense and prosecution, researching and collecting evidence. This included checking out fingerprints and handwriting samples.
“I had the chance to see how tedious it can be,” Arnzen said.
They also had the chance to sightsee and hear a variety of speakers and learn about their jobs.
“Because of this, I am now interested in the job of a medical examiner,” Arnzen said. “I am not totally sure what path I will end up taking, but it’s another avenue I had not really considered before and it is very interesting.”
Right now, she is considering Texas Tech or Texas A&M, primarily because both have high-rated forensics programs.
“Texas also has a high crime rate, so they are in need of people to fill jobs in the criminal justice system,” she relayed.
Eventually, she would like to go the route of training for the FBI.
“I like to have a plan and be prepared,” she said. “I also want other kids to know there is so much out there – just be prepared. If you’re interested in this path, take as much math and science as possible.”
She also added she was glad for the cultural and social insights she was able to gain from meeting a variety of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and political parties.
“It was an amazing experience to figure out what all the stereotypes were and to break down those walls and still be able to converse, have fun and be friends,” she said.
Arnzen is employed at One Hour/RadioShack as well as Columbia Grain where she weighs trucks at Big Butte/Winona during harvest.
Arnzen’s dad, Vaughn Arnzen, and stepmom, Holly, are also “very supportive,” of her educational decisions, she said.
“I have great family support, and wonderful support and encouragement from this community,” she smiled.