For the first time in six years, a Corona del Mar High School student will serve as a delegate at the YMCA's Youth and Government Conference on National Affairs.

Matilda Bress, a junior at CdM, is one of 25 California students who will travel to North Carolina this summer to participate in the 10-day national conference.

With about 176 students involved, CdM's Youth and Government delegation is one of the largest in the state, Matilda said.

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After realizing that her true passion is politics, the 17-year-old quit her position as captain of the junior varsity water polo team at CdM to pursue a spot in Youth and Government.

"Whenever I won awards for water polo it was always awards like most inspirational, never MVP," she said. "I was always more valuable outside of the pool for my team. Those qualities are the same to thrive in politics."

To apply to become a delegate at the conference, students must complete an application, write an essay, furnish letters of recommendation and make a video arguing a national political position.

In her time in CdM's program, Matilda said, she's learned that an informed population is one of the most important parts of a well-functioning democracy.

At the conference, students will author individual proposals about a national or international issue and champion them through a debate process. The focus is to provide students with a better understanding of the federal government and its relation to state, national and international matters.

"When you're a kid, people don't expect you to have a voice or an opinion," she said. "But it doesn't make sense to turn 18 and then decide to catch up on the past 18 years of history."