Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Crenshaw High student's quest for a White House visit also leads to the DNC

Mia Henry prepares to go to the Democratic National Convention.
Mia Henry prepares to go to the Democratic National Convention.
Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

A recent Crenshaw High grad is one of the youngest delegates representing California at this week’s Democratic National Convention.

Mia Henry, 18, of Los Angeles, was among a group of Crenshaw freshmen students asking each other in Jan. 2009 why their high school was not among those represented at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. She and eight other students were part of teacher Daphne Bradford's digital media program. 

Their discussion, with Bradford's guidance, turned into a quest for an invitation to the White House. It took more than a year and lots of unanswered letters and calls, but finally the group made it to Washington in 2010.

"We had a tour of the White House and we also met Sam Kass, the White House chef, and Reggie Love, who at the time was President Obama’s right-hand man," Henry said. The group also met with the White House Web team and Jenny Kaplan, head of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
"My favorite part of the time was being in Mrs. Michelle Obama’s garden. We saw everything they were growing, their own beehive and their own honey,” Henry said.

They didn’t meet the Obamas, which was disappointing. But they co-wrote a book, “Journey to the White House.” 

Henry and another student, Trestan Fairweather, parlayed that project — and the contacts they made performing multimedia tasks for the political group Organize For America — into another invitation.  

Fairweather and Henry are attending the Democratic National Convention as two of the youngest delegates from California. They, and teacher Bradford, who is accompanying them, will tweet their adventure using hashtag #Crenshaw2DNC.

She doesn’t consider herself a political person, but something about seeing Barack Obama run for president four years ago made her want to be part of that world, Hery said.

“I knew he could win. I had faith in him," Henry said. “It was just ... an eye-opener. Because I guess they have the stereotype of black people wanting to be like sports, basketball and football players. When I saw him, I thought, that’s not what we’re all about — we can be something totally higher.” 

Henry described herself as quiet, but said she’s got a take-charge demeanor.

She joined the Crenshaw High School digital media class with the idea of becoming a crime scene photographer. But now, as a freshman studying criminal justice at Cal State University Dominguez Hills, she has set her sights higher:

"I wanted to do something, not just take pictures, but solve the crime," she added. Henry said the message she takes from President Obama is to work through the barriers and be tenacious.

"If you have a dream, go towards your dream, don’t give up," she said. "If you have a goal and you hit a road block, you don’t have to stop. Just keep going.”