OAKLAND -- The American Alliance of Museums has chosen an Oakland teenager to be one of the first youths in the nation to advocate for federal funding of museums.
Simone Pierre Batiste, a high school junior and volunteer at the Chabot Space and Science Center, will travel to Washington, D.C., for Museums Advocacy Day on Tuesday. Simone is one of only two students in the nation to receive the honor this year.
"We are proud she will be joining us in Washington as one of the first Great American Museum Advocates," said Ford W. Bell, president of The American Alliance of Museums. AAM advocates on behalf of museums because of the positive effect they have on people's lives and the nation.
"Museums such as the Chabot Space and Science Center are integral to science education, which in turn is crucial to our future economic competitiveness," Bell said. "The Chabot center has had a profound impact on students in the Bay Area, and Simone Batiste is a shining example of the museum's influence."
The 16-year-old and lifelong resident of Oakland has been going to Chabot since she was 5. Her older sister, Adrianne, inspired her to get involved at the center.
"It's become almost a second home," Simone Batiste said of Chabot.
"She's one of our shining stars," said Lisa Hoover, Chabot's youth development manager of Simone Batiste. "She's ambitious, thoughtful and sincere. She has an infectious enthusiasm that even inspires her peers to achieve excellence."
Inspired by concern for war veterans, victims of fires and natural disasters, Batiste's career goal is to be a reconstructive surgeon. She has a strong desire to give back to the community, especially to people less fortunate than others.
On a recent trip, when Hoover got a cold, Batiste brought her a gift to lift her spirits.
"I don't believe she can help it," Hoover said. Always cheerful and naturally nurturing, Hoover said Batiste has two traits that make for a good doctor.
"She's very warm," said Jennie Brown, a youth development coordinator at Chabot, about Batiste, who volunteers and explains exhibits to visitors at the center. Brown said Batiste works well with children and adults. "She a great representative."
Museums Advocacy Day is a nationwide collaboration of museums making the case for federal funding for museums. A day before Tuesday's meeting with officials from Capitol Hill, more than 300 museum professionals will be briefed on issues facing their community.
AAM supports 21,000 museums, individuals and companies. Its mission is nurturing museum excellence through advocacy and service.
"I'm very excited and honored," Batiste said of the chance to go to Washington, D.C. Discovering that AAM administered a trip she and others from Chabot took to Hong Kong last summer, Batiste said she wants to return the favor.
To advocate for funding, Batiste will be sharing her Chabot experiences with museum professionals and members of Congress. It will be her second time sharing. At Chabot's 2013 Starlight Gala, she spoke about her experiences at the center before business, community and philanthropic leaders.
Convinced by Hoover to put her experiences in her own words at the gala, "She blew them away at the end," Hoover said.
The AAM selection committee said Simone Batiste was an ideal choice for the honor. Her story about the impact Chabot has had on her life convinced the committee to select her from dozens of nominations.
"Simone's life has been changed by the Chabot center," Bell said. "As a result, Simone someday will change the lives of many others."
"She's a well-rounded young lady," said Manaiya Scott, a friend of Batiste.
"I'm really excited," Scott said of her friend's trip to Washington. "I know she's going to knock it out."