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Clinton Invites Guests to Address

January 19, 1999

MIAMI (AP) _ A teacher involved in a gun safety program, a Vietnamese refugee who mentors high school students and a mother fighting to prevent school violence were among the guests invited to President Clinton’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Joanna Quintana-Barroso, Loc Truong and Suzann Wilson will be sitting with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as Clinton delivers his annual speech to Congress.

Mrs. Barroso teaches third grade at Little Havana’s Coral Way Elementary School, a school with innovative programs including alternative education classes for at-risk children, a Stop the Violence Day and Drug Awareness Week.

The 29-year-old teacher has also been involved with the school’s curriculum-based gun safety program, which encourages students to stay away from guns and violence with weapons by having them sign a symbolic pledge.

``It’s a city school with a realistic perspective on what’s going on,″ she said of the K-5 elementary school where she has taught for seven years.

Truong, 23, mentors students at San Luis Obispo High School in California through AmeriCorps, the president’s domestic volunteer program. He works with eight students, helping them with homework, looking for jobs and serving as a role model for appropriate behavior.

He moved to San Luis Obispo 18 years ago after leaving his native Vietnam on a boat with his parents and seven siblings. Two years ago, he graduated from college with a degree in biochemistry, with the intention of becoming a doctor.

But his experiences with Americorps during the past two years have persuaded him to become a high school principal.

``I just love working with kids,″ he said. ``That is where my passion is.″

Ms. Wilson called for stronger laws to prevent school violence after her daughter was among those slain in last year’s school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark. Her 11-year-old daughter, Britthney Varner, three other students and a teacher were killed.

Ms. Wilson said after the shootings that she wanted to do something positive, such as keeping children away from firearms. Ms. Wilson and her sister, Regina Kaut, created People Against Violence Everywhere.

In the months after the shootings, Ms. Wilson made her case before Arkansas legislators. Gov. Mike Huckabee formed a citizen’s group to make recommendations on how to reform the state’s juvenile justice system.

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