WASHINGTON, D.C. – A total of 349 FFA members from all across the country met in Washington, D.C. June 14-18 at the Washington Leadership Conference held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Of those 349 students, two of them were from the Urbana FFA Chapter.
When the students arrived they went through a registration line and then assigned their room numbers. We were unsure of our roommates as we meet them when we entered our rooms. Day one of the conference was focused on citizenship. We had two sessions, one as a large group and one in our community groups. Day two was focused around finding your purpose. We used our Learn books to find our purpose and write our purpose statements. We visited the Arlington National Cemetery. After visiting the cemetery we traveled back to the hotel for lunch and two sessions. Our community session consisted of developing our Living To Serve Plans. After sessions and dinner we traveled on a tour bus around to different monuments. Some of the monuments included World War I and II Memorials, Vietnam Wall, and the Lincoln Memorial.
Day three consisted of traveling to the United States Capitol Building. When we arrived at the Capitol, we separated from the large group and went off with our advisor and a chapter from Texas. We met Austin Smithson who is a part of the Legislative Counsel and works beside Senator Ted Cruz. After speaking with Smithson, we then went on a guided tour around the Capitol building. The group traveled back to the hotel for three sessions. When we entered the ballroom for dinner Thursday evening, we saw table cloths laid out on the floor. There were only six tables set up and then a section in the corner of the room sectioned off by caution tape. As we walked through the door some students received a piece of paper that told them if they would be seated in the upper, middle, or the natural disaster area. The students who were seated at the table labeled upper class, had their meal catered to their table. Those seated in the middle class tables were dismissed to go through the buffet line. Anyone seated on the floor in either the lower class or in the natural disaster area did not receive anything. In fact, we were told we would not receive any food at all. The staff each told a story and gave an example of a family that belongs to each social class and even moved some students around to show how classes can change. Soon after the stories, those seated on the floor had a bowl of rice dumped on the floor in front of them. It really opened everyone’s eyes and showed us that there are people struggling and made us realize what it’s like to not receive any food.
Day four was centered around advocating. We visited the Newseum in the morning. After exploring in the museum we returned to the Omni for sessions eight thru eleven. In session 11, the staff shared with us statistics for needs such as hunger, natural disaster, and illiteracy from around the country. For every need there was a bucket filled with bouncy balls. After going through all of the needs, there were over 5,000 balls spread across the ballroom floor. As a large group, we were told to pick them up and return them back to the buckets but we had limitations on how we could return them. For example, we were not allowed to take our feet off the ground and could only take one ball at a time. When we almost got an entire bucket full one of the staff members came around and emptied the buckets out back onto the ball room floor. This was to show us we may have obstacles to overcome but it’s always possible if we stay determined.
On the final day of the conference students participated in a service project called Meals Of Hope. We boxed 61,440 meals to help feed the hungry around the District of Columbia. After boxing the meals we were dismissed to leave for free time in the city. During free time we went to the Holocaust Museum and went shopping at the mall. After free time we came back together as a large group for our two final sessions. The final sessions were used to encourage us to follow through with our Living To Serve Plans. After an exhausting week in Washington, D.C. we returned home and shared our experiences with fellow chapter members, family members and friends. We also began to instill our LTS plans.
Urbana FFA Tresurer