BY TAMARAH WALLACE
Her hand gently taps on the steering wheel, perfectly in tune with the classic rock melody undulating from the car’s speakers as she maneuvers down a tree-lined, winding road. Her mind wanders, gripped by the image of the harrowing, mountainous destination she had hiked the previous summer. She parks the car in front of the busy entrance and takes a step out of the vehicle. As she switches out her priceless vintage jacket for a blazer, a transformation occurs. A crisp suit registers and, as she straightens the garment and raises her head, so does a determined congresswoman.
Cooper City High School senior Kia Del Solar-Patino was born in the bustling urban sprawl that is Lima, Peru and made her first move to America when she was only 5 years old. In the following years, she oscillated between Peru and the United States, which proved problematic as the language and curriculum in both places differed drastically.
Though challenging, the situation honed a quality in Del Solar that could be linked to her budding political success: drive. When the question of her accent was raised by her peers, Del Solar took it upon herself to thoroughly master the English language as well as the United States curriculum.
“I had a Spanish accent until I was ten and that was a bit rough for me because it was always in my mind that I had an accent,” Del Solar explained. “[The accent] made me want to better my English speech skills and perfect my speech.”
Her pursuit to master speech as well as Peru’s striking political climate were two important catalysts that sparked her interest in the world of politics and the Cooper City High School Speech and Debate Team.
“Peru has such an interesting political history,” Del Solar said. “I mean you’ve got everything: presidents working with terrorists, mass corruption, presidents resigning after stealing a lot of money, and [so on]. Discussions with my dad about these situations really peaked my interest in politics.”
From there her love for politics only grew, prompting her to join CCHS’ debate team.
Then, with the recommendation of her coach, Wendy Schauben, and some experienced peers, she decided to enter a category called congressional debate. In this category, students are placed in a congress chamber simulation and debate bills that would be discussed on the actual congress floor.
“Participating in congress allows me to express my voice and makes me feel like I can make a change,” Del Solar said. “It is something that I have a passion for because I feel like I can be involved in the betterment of others’ lives.”
Del Solar’s various achievements have made her a formidable opponent, so much so that she earned the title of Vice President of Debate for CCHS’s speech and debate team. Her accomplishments include ranking first at Swamp Invitational at Everglades High School in her novice year and placing in every varsity tournament since in the most competitive district in the country. She also was a semifinalist at Florida Blue Key, a renowned national tournament held at the University of Florida, and at the University of California, Berkeley Invitational, at which she was one of only two Floridians.
“Kia has a very laid back personality, but when she’s debating, it’s another story,” close friend and fellow debate team officer Emma Sheridan said.
Stemming from her debate success, Del Solar has also volunteered for both the Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaigns, where she has participated in a type of door to door campaigning called canvassing. Ultimately, Del Solar strives to volunteer in activities that help her towards her political goals, not just to fill the graduation requirement, and hopes to achieve a lasting impact on the future.
“When I’m making bills or debating them, I always look at the impact because it’s either going to be harmful or beneficial and I want to make sure it benefits the future generations,” Del Solar assured.
Del Solar’s avid belief in enabling youth is exhibited in another set of extracurricular hobbies. As a Women of Tomorrow council member, Del Solar partakes in a mentorship program where teenage girls are taught the skills needed for success and are assigned a mentor to guide them. The club more specifically aims to expose these girls to different experiences so that they can determine what they want to do in the future.
In order to further connect with America’s future, Del Solar coaches a girls under 8 division soccer team at the Cooper City Optimist. Having gained her athletic experience from playing soccer and her time on Cooper’s track and field team, Del Solar is a more than able coach. She played soccer for 3 years at the optimist and was a part of the team that won top 4 in the division last year.
Del Solar’s athletic passion has manifested from her love of nature; having trekked through the exotic Amazon jungle and camped in the lush forests of the North American west, she is no novice to adventure. However, one of her greatest came in the form of a near-death experience.This past summer, as Del Solar attempted to make the 8-hour journey across the Andes mountains in Peru to reach the Amazon, tragedy almost struck at 4,800 meters above sea level. As she and her family ventured up the treacherous roads of the Andes, the snow from the mountaintops fell from above, chilling the air to a frigid -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though they were aware that the windows should be slightly open in order to temper themselves to the thin air, they refrained because of the bitter cold.
Upon reaching the quiet, isolated town of Ticlio, they decided to stop for a bathroom break. Once outside of the car, they quickly realized that the keys were locked inside and, simultaneously, began to become extremely dizzy from the high altitude’s thin air. However, after a 30 minute wait, three men thankfully arrived and offered their help. With a large rod with a hook attached, the men were able to force the window open and push the lock button, thus opening the vehicle
“To this day, I don’t understand why the men had a large stick with a hook duct taped to it, but I am grateful that they did,” Del Solar joked.
After that situation, the trip went on as planned and Del Solar and her family reached the Amazonian hiking trail without a hitch.
So now, Kia Del Solar strides purposefully up the steps of the school, her confident smile bright. As she grips the door’s handle, she has a dreamlike vision. It is an image of her contentedly opening a much more elaborate door, one that she has only seen once before on a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.