Like many high school seniors, Joe Anderson has big dreams. Unlike most teenagers, however, Anderson's ambitions extend all the way to the White House.
"I plan to be president of the United States," the Santa Rosa resident and St. Vincent High School senior said.
Far from a fleeting pipe dream, Anderson's plan is concrete: college next fall — Yale, if he can get in; then work on staff for a congressman; represent the North Coast in Congress; and, finally, run for president in 2048.
Anderson, 17, has been preparing for a life of public service by engaging in a host of after-school activities and volunteer projects.
Most notably, Anderson chaired the committee at his church, St. Seraphim Orthodox Church in Santa Rosa, that put on the successful Glendi International Food Festival last month. The 24th annual festival raised about $40,000 for the church and various charities. This year's two-day event drew about 2,000 people.
"I've always liked helping others," he said. "The best way that I can do that is by giving back to my community."
Anderson is also in a leadership class at St. Vincent in Petaluma, part of a mentorship program, an actor in school plays, a cross-country runner and he still has time to maintain straight A's.
On weekends, he can be found volunteering at St. Seraphim, where he teaches Sunday school, serves as an usher and often assists in the kitchen in the fellowship hall to prepare Sunday lunch for the congregation.
"The church community is an integral part of who I am," he said. "They've always been there for me. There is a lot of love. I try and give back whenever I can."
Father Lawrence Margitich, pastor at St. Seraphim, said that Anderson is always looking for ways to help others.
"I would say that if you wanted to characterize Joe's approach, it would be: Be positive, help others, work hard, look for the next task and express an attitude of thankfulness in everything," he said. "He's always willing to give you a hand."
Anderson has already started dabbling in politics — he was treasurer of the St. Vincent student body association last year and narrowly lost the presidency this year.
He said the recent polarization of Washington lawmakers that ground the federal government to a halt has not dissuaded him from going into politics.
"I want to get into it so that I can fix the system," he said. "I'm a Democrat. I get along with Republicans. I can compromise."
You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.