Wyoming FFA members travel to Washington, D.C. for leadership, community service conferenceWritten by Wilson Stewart
This summer, the city of Washington D.C. was attacked by a swarm of youthful and driven young leaders wearing blue corduroy jackets. For seven weeks in June and July, FFA members from across the United States, from Hawaii to Alaska, got in a car or plane and traveled to our nation’s capital to attend the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC).
Tayler Cotton, a member of the Casper FFA who attended WLC’s seventh and final session, explains, “WLC is a leadership conference. But it’s not the average FFA conference. True friendships are formed, and we learned new things about ourselves to help others.”
Cotton traveled to the conference with two other members of her chapter on July 20.
Over the course of a week, Cotton and the more than 250 FFA members attending this last session participated in leadership workshops, performed community service activities and toured the Washington D.C. area.
Given WLC’s nature, leadership actives happened every day. One in particular stuck out to several members interviewed.
One night, all the members were gathered in a circle in one of the hotel’s ballrooms. They were asked to sit on the floor. High Plains FFA member Katie Schilt, who attended the third session of WLC, describes, “Thousands of bouncy balls were poured out on to the ballroom floor to symbolize all of the starving and hurting people in the world.”
As the WLC facilitators poured out the balls, the members watched as they slowly filled the enormous circle between them.
Once all the balls had been poured out, the members were given a task.
Cotton explains, “They asked us to pick all of the balls up, but not all at once, just one ball at a time.”
Attendees immediately sprang into action but were met with difficulties.
Schilt says, “Sometimes the facilitators would dump them out again to show us how we have setbacks in life, but we should not let that stop us.”
This was only one of the many in-depth leadership activities that took place at WLC.
Another important component to leadership is service.
This year’s WLC service project focused on the abundance of food insecurity in local communities. Each of the seven WLC session groups worked with Meals of Hope to package meals for families in the D.C. area.
Each session met the task with extreme enthusiasm and was able to package a sizable amount of meals. Session Seven, for example, was able to package a total of 57,600 individual meals in the span of only two hours.
Over the course of the summer, WLC attendees packaged nearly half a million meals for the homeless in the D.C. area.
Living to Serve
Another extension of the service component of WLC is the Living To Serve (LTS) plan.
Every FFA member who attended WLC worked with a small group to develop an individual service project that they will carry out when they return home. The subject of these LTS plans varies significantly as each attendee was able to choose their own.
Cotton explains, “We picked a cause that we felt we had a connection to.”
LTS goals ranged from helping the hungry in local communities to raising money for the physically disabled in schools and developing middle school FFA programs.
The nation’s capital
Though WLC is a leadership-focused conference, attendees didn’t spend their whole time in a ballroom listening to speakers talk about leadership. Much of the week was spent out in the city, touring the many monuments and museums that the city is famous for.
Attendees toured places such as Arlington National Cemetery, the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill, among other things.
Seventh session attendee Quentin Moter of the Windy City FFA comments, “I loved the National Archives. To see the documents that founded our country was amazing.”
Taking it home
Cotton, Schilt and Moter were asked how they will take what they learned at WLC and apply it back home.
Cotton talks about her LTS plan, saying, “I will use the things that I learned to help special needs kids be more associated with the rest of our society and to give them the love and attention they deserve.”
Schilt plans to involve her whole chapter in service.
She says, “We are starting a big service project here in Wyoming as a chapter. We are keeping the details on the down-low for now, but everyone will hear more from us soon.”
Finally, Moter replies, “I am going to see to those needs in my chapter and community. I want to carry out the plans I made and show other people that they can make a change in the world.”