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State Honoree

David Mericle

Wisconsin

David Mericle, 17, of Madison, Wis., a senior at James Madison Memorial High School, established a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve relations between the United States and Cuba by creating opportunities for students in the two countries to meet and become friends. It all began when David spearheaded the development of an education Web site about Cuba. “I chose Cuba because accurate information on the country was lacking,” he said, “and I wanted to create an online source that would allow Americans to form educated opinions and appreciate this unique country,” he said. After the Web site won an award, David decided to expand his efforts, and used his prize money to found a student exchange program. He spent a year seeking support for his idea by writing letters, holding meetings and soliciting funding, and then led a delegation of local students to the Cuban city of Camaguey, where they delivered donations of medical supplies and computer equipment, met with government officials and student leaders, and learned a great deal more about the island nation. David then began working with a youth group in Havana to develop an annual summer learning program for U.S. students, and raising money to bring Cuban students to the U.S. David said he hopes his program will ultimately “make it possible for tens of thousands of students throughout the United States to meet their Cuban counterparts,” and “lead to a new era of Cuban-American relations marked by the goodwill that today’s youths can develop before becoming tomorrow’s leaders.”