An outstanding Lehighton Area High School student recently had the opportunity to take part in a unique career development program in the nation's capital.

Nicholas Mantz, 17, son of David and Judy Mantz, attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security: Exploring American Diplomacy, Intelligence and Defense in Washington D.C. The conference was held from Feb. 15 through Feb. 20. Mantz is currently ranked first in the class of 2012.

The curriculum for the Forum on National Security is based on actual world events. Throughout the program, students used critical thinking, leadership and public speaking skills to tackle the complexity of national decision making as they examined how the U.S. plans for peace and prepares for crisis. They employed a crisis decision-making process similar to that employed by the nation's top policymakers.

Through the sessions, he and the other participants, had the responsibility of securing the United States at home and aboard. Through these specialized simulation, the youths were in the driver's seat of building a strategy that upheld national security.

Approximately 300 youths from throughout the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, plus a foreign exchange student from China, met with world leaders in the fields of national security, leadership, intelligence gathering and strategy.

For Mantz, the sessions proved to be an eye opener as far as his career choice is concerned. While he is considering a career in national defense, the sessions proved that his choices are far more diverse and interesting that he had imagined.

Students also participated in thought-provoking question and answer sessions with highly respected, internationally recognized civilian policymakers and senior military. In addition, leading institutions opened their doors to the students, where they were educated in diplomacy, international affairs and military strategy.

"We met with a member to the National Security Agency and learned about intelligence careers," said Mantz. He also was able to tour the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, where they saw a demonstration of martial arts and then viewed the biggest helicopter in the western hemisphere. They also toured embassies, national memorials, museums, National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery.

"I learned there are a lot of options available for careers in intelligence," said Mantz.

Mantz said his days were packed full of seminars and speakers with very little down time.

His most memorable moment was meeting John Sano, former Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, Central Intelligence Agency, who shared insight of working undercover for 15 of his 28 years in service. Mantz noted that he also made a lot of new friends, which he plans to stay in touch with in the future.

Mantz is a well rounded student, who takes time to play tennis, golf and ice hockey. He also participated in the Science Olympiad and plays the guitar.

He plans to pursue attending a military academy following graduation in 2012.