Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve. This is the National FFA Organization’s Motto. All FFA members live by this motto, and strive to make their lives better by following these four simple phrases. This past week eight exceptional FFA members from the Rushville FFA Chapter had the opportunity to attend the Washington Leadership Conference, WLC, along with 300 other FFA members from around the country. This conference strives to build leadership and character through community service.
The group traveled by train and left Sunday, June 7, from the train station in Connersville. After 18 long hours, they finally reached their destination, Washington D.C. The rest of the night consisted of resting.
On Monday the group visited many sites that the city has to offer. The list included: The National Archives, the American History Smithsonian, Fords Theater where President Lincoln was assassinated, and wrapped up their day by taking a trip on the metro to Old Alexandria to take in some of the local cuisine.
On Tuesday the students boarded a boat and traveled to Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is George Washington’s estate. The groups spent the day touring this historical site. After they returned to D.C., it was time to begin the conference. All eight students then had the opportunity to meet their three roommates. These roommates were randomly selected, and were not from the state of Indiana. The first night of the conference consisted of getting to know new people, and meeting their community groups.
On Wednesday the students of the conference attended many sessions in which they learned about citizenship and all the needs that people have around this world. They discussed these needs with their community groups, and began to think about how they can change this. The day was wrapped up with a poverty dinner. During this dinner, students were divided and put in the shoes of lower class people, middle class people, and upper class citizens. The upper class received full treatment and got to eat a three course meal. The middle class got to eat a meal from the buffet. But majority of the students in the room had to share a bowl of rice with 8 people around them. This signified the lower class. Cody Dawson, a student that attended the conference said, “it opened my eyes and showed me that the world isn’t what it seems. There are people out there that don’t have all the things that we take for granted.”
On Thursday the students got the opportunity to visit the Newseum, and have free time to tour the Capital Building, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. After the group returned back to the hotel, they learned about advocacy. They learned what advocacy means, and why we need to be an advocate for people in need. During dinner an advocacy panel answered questions about being an advocate for what we believe in.
On Friday, WLC students started their day by touring Arlington National Cemetery. After this tour the students were able to visit all the monuments that surrounded the Washington Monument, where they posed for a picture at the World War II memorial. After they returned back to the hotel from their site seeing, they attended sessions about diversity. They learned how diverse this world is, and how diversity is essential to the survival of mankind. The students also developed Living to Serve plans or LTS plans as they were referred to throughout the week. These plans are student’s plans on how they can help eliminate some of those needs around their community.
This conference was all about serving the ones around us. And they took all the skills that they have learned this week and they put them into action on Saturday. They did this in the form of a community service project. With sponsors of CSX and One City, they packaged school supplies for a middle school where 99% of the students enrolled in the school qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Heidi Schultz had this to say about helping these kids, “It was an eye opening experience discovering how many teenagers have no money for school supplies.” After the community service project, students discussed obstacles in completing their LTS plans, and resources that could help them overcome these obstacles. After this students shared their LTS plans with the entire crowd of WLC students and staff. Taylor Yager shared her LTS plan of helping students who might be feeling down so that suicide can be eliminated. Stacia Smith shared her LTS plan on supporting people with cancer in the Rush County community. The conference was wrapped up with a dance, and the students mingled with their new friends one last time. Tears were shed as students said goodbye to the new people in their lives.
This conference was a once in a lifetime experience for all the students who were able to go. These Rushville FFA members are returning home with an everlasting passion for serving the Rush County Community.
Mason Gordon serves as the Rushville FFA reporter.