It’s tough making the right choices when you’re 15 years old. But when your decisions affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, the pressure gets a little greater. That was the situation facing Amy Arreátegui Pozo when she was selected from 123 students to be the mayor of Trujillo, Peru, the third largest city in the country. Mayor for a day, that is.
When Amy was a Mia Maid in the Mousserat Ward, Trujillo Perú Laureles Stake, she attended a secondary school called the Academy of Engineering. “One of my goals,” says Amy, “was to become the student mayor [like a student-body president] from this school, and I did. That was my dream. My next goal was to win the ‘Mayor for a Day’ contest, and here I am. I finally made it. What helped me win was my confidence in myself.”
Of course, showing that she had a lot of great ideas about improving schools and neighborhoods in the city also helped. Coming up with these ideas for the contest was a lot of work, but deciding which ones to include was pretty easy. To decide, Amy used a method she’s come to depend on—a method that has given her the confidence she talks about. It’s the process of asking and receiving answers through prayer.
“Always go to Heavenly Father when you’re making a decision, and you will always make the right choice,” Amy says. That’s one reason she could handle the responsibility so well when the city of Trujillo issued the resolution recognizing her as “mayor for a day.” The city council acted to accept her activities during her 24 hours as mayor. All contracts, decisions, and authorizations would be legally binding.
Amy arrived at the city hall at 7:30 a.m., even before Mayor José Murgia Zannier, Trujillo’s mayor for more than 10 years. After being officially installed in her post, she met with Mayor Murgia to go over the day’s schedule and coordinate some details. Thus began her busy day as mayor.
In the mayor’s official vehicle, Amy made a visit to inspect a park where the city plans to build a sports and recreation center. She then visited a public school, where she met with the principal and surveyed the progress on the construction of two classrooms.
Back at city hall, Amy met with an official from the public defenders office and with the director of the San José Children’s Home. Amy quickly decided to send a group of workmen to the children’s home to make some needed repairs. She also received visits from several other schools seeking funding.
At a press conference, Amy launched her teen leadership program, titled “A Challenge for the Future.” Since her program started, teen leaders from more than 100 schools in the city have met monthly with government officials to discuss the needs of education.
Then Amy presided over the city council meeting, opening the session and calling roll. She also planted a tree at the opening of a newly renovated city park and listened to the requests of neighbors living in the area. That evening, she attended a cultural event in one of the town plazas.
It was a busy day for Amy, a young woman one of the local newspapers described as “outstanding in intellect, sobriety, eloquence, and leadership abilities, but most of all in her great goals and objectives.”
The experience Amy had while serving as mayor for a day opened her eyes to the many needs within her community. One of those needs—education—was already a primary focus of Amy’s plans and programs. But Amy realizes that while school is important, there are other aspects of our lives that should take precedence over a secular education.
“I feel that here in Trujillo, which is considered the culture capital of Peru, many put the Church aside and put more focus on their studies,” Amy says. “There are many youth within the Church who don’t go on missions so they can continue with their schooling at the university or who stop going to institute classes and church meetings.”
So while Amy studies hard in school and plans to become a psychologist, she also works hard in her calling as a Sunday School teacher and on her personal spiritual progression. She understands that there is a time for everything: a time for study, a time for church, and a time for friends, family, and fun.
It’s a question of perspective and priority. Amy explains: “The prophet wants the youth to get as much schooling as possible, and the Lord will always prepare the way for us to do it, so we don’t have to leave the Church to do something that is secular. Even though it’s important to get an education, it’s more important to do what our Heavenly Father commands.”
The youth in Peru face many of the same challenges youth face all over the world. The temptations to follow the ways of the world call loudly: pornography, immorality, and dishonesty.
“Fashion and all the trends like music are also a problem because most of us are surrounded by nonmembers, so at times it’s easy to be led by our peers and not our principles,” Amy says. She warns that we should not give in to pressure from those who would have us relax our standards. “Another problem,” she says, “is that when a young person joins the Church, they sometimes lose friends.”
Amy feels blessed that she has found friends and strength among her family, ward members, and fellow seminary students. They have been there to support and encourage her to follow the Lord.
Now that Amy has had a taste of what it’s like to be mayor of Trujillo, what are her plans for the future? “I will start out as a student mayor,” Amy explains, “and then perhaps become mayor of a local unit, and then mayor of a district, and then become the first woman president of Peru.”
Amy says that many young people lack the confidence to set goals and reach them because they don’t understand why they’re here on earth and what they should do in their lives. By building her life around the gospel, Amy has gained the confidence to succeed in whatever she righteously desires.
“I’ve grown closer to my Heavenly Father by praying and asking for His confirmation in whatever decision I have to make,” she says. “It is very special for me to feel His Spirit and know He approves of my choices. By having His approval, I feel that things will always, always turn out well.”