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Angie Manzanares
Dozens of refugee students toured the state capitol last week and got a glimpse into the legislative process.

SALT LAKE CITY — Before his visit to Utah’s capitol building, Cottonwood High School student Raymond Kapongo never had political aspirations. But a tour through the marble hallways, a discussion with Gov. Gary Herbert and a glimpse into the legislative process changed all that.

Dressed in slacks, white shirt and tie, Kapongo said he is eyeing the top spot in Utah’s Legislature.

“I’m interested in being the governor,” the Kenyan native said. “I’ve learned a lot of things here.”

While he plans to major in accounting, Kapongo said he wants to help the people around him through the legislative process.

“I would like to go and talk to people and let them know I can help,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of things.”

Kapongo is just one of dozens of students from Granite School District's Language Academy who toured the capitol last week. The academy assists immigrant and refugee students with integrating into American high school and culture.

The program, formerly known as the Newcomer Academy, was housed at Granite Peaks and Granite High School before moving to Cottonwood this year. Although it is an after-school program, many students move through the day together in English as a second language classes, allowing them to become close to one another.

The 99 students in the program come from continents around the world and speak many languages, like Spanish and Arabic.

Angela Hamilton, an ESL history teacher at the school, scheduled the trip to the capitol to help students understand how laws are created.

“I want them to know how our legislative process works,” she said. “I want them to understand that they have a voice and they are represented, too.”

As for Kapongo, he is just beginning his long journey to the governor’s seat.

“I have a few ideas,” he said. “Now, as I see this, I may step into politics.”

Angie Manzanares is a former teacher and journalist. She currently works for the Granite School District as a public relations specialist. Her hobbies include photography, graphic design, dancing, and screaming at Jazz games.