Experience the once-in-a-lifetime event from the perspective of a Y.E.S. alumni participant.
Monday: Arrival, Orientation, Debate Prep
After spending five hours on a plane, I finally arrived! It was the first time I had been in a plane so it was a little nerve-racking. It helped that there was another Y.E.S. kid on the plane with me (how did I know he was from Y.E.S.? Same NRA t-shirt!)
When I got to the hotel, I quickly unpacked my things and headed down to the orientation room. We did icebreakers until everyone arrived. Although I can’t remember everyone’s names I remember where most everyone comes from—all the way from Alaska to Florida.
We listened to an orientation of what we can expect during the week and our responsibilities. We are representing the NRA so we have to do our best to represent it well! It’s a lot of pressure, but I know I will make everyone proud—especially my parents.
The staff broke us out into debate groups and it was fun to see who I’ve been talking to the last few weeks while we have been preparing for our debate on our constitutional topic. I’ve never debated before, but excited to try it out for the first time!
We finally headed to the room for bed checks after the long day. Even though I wanted to get to bed early, my roommates and I talked for like an hour. One was from Arkansas and the other was from California. Who would’ve thought I would ever be sharing a room with people from there!
Tuesday: NRA Day = Speeches + Shooting
I have to admit, after seeing the schedule of events I wasn’t looking forward to spending a morning listening to speeches. I was so wrong! Each speaker was more interesteing than the next. I learned about all types of NRA programs like Eddie Eagle, Refuse to be a Victim, and NRA University. When I get back home, I am definitely teaching Eddie Eagle’s message in my community—If I can save a child’s life by presenting his message, it will totally be worth it.
During lunch we participated in a mock Friends of NRA banquet. I had no idea the money raised at Friends of NRA events paid for me to come here! Friends of NRA events take place all over the country and have raised over $600 million for shooting sports programs. I’m also putting this on my to do list when I get home.
The highlight of my visit to the NRA has got to be either the National Firearms Museum or the NRA Range. At the museum we got to see a ton of cool firearms I’d never seen in my entire life. There were some firearms that were missing from the cases--and soon we’d find out why. We were going to shoot firearms from the museum’s own collection at the NRA Range!!! I was scared to shoot full-autos, but that feeling soon subsided after shooting my first with all the museum staff and NRA Certified Trainers around me.
We ended the evening with a BBQ picnic and outdoor field games, including kickball!
Wednesday: Debates, National Archives, Sights
Today was the day of reckoning, I had to give my debate in front of everyone. We had to debate that the Constitution is an enduring document as opposed to a living one. We headed to Washington, D.C. to the Hillsdale College, Allan P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. It definitely helped my debate that David Bobb, Director of the Center and Lecturer in Politics, spoke about the history of the Constitution and the significance of it today. After he spoke, we were the first group up. The other side gave a compelling argument, but we won the overall debate! Our debate participation is a factor in getting a scholarship, so I hope my performance was good enough to be considered!
What better way to learn about the Constitution than to see it in person? We visited the National Archives and I couldn’t believe I was seeing the original document right before my eyes! I’ve always been a history buff so seeing this was probably the highlight of my trip. To think that this was written by our Founding Fathers a couple hundred years ago is unbelievable. I can’t wait to tell my friends back at home.
Thursday: Capitol Hill, Smithsonian, Current Events Discussions
I cannot even begin to describe how tired I am, but I am pushing through because I want to experience EVERYTHING.
We started out the day at Capitol Hill. While we were waiting for Congressman Duncan Hunter to arrive, we did individual speeches. We were given topics before the summit and my topic was “Should the government regulate the sports industry?” I gave my three minute speech on why the government shouldn’t be involved and I hope I received a good grade from the Y.E.S. staff!
After Congressman Hunter talked to us about being active young citizens we headed to the Supreme Court where we saw an actual case being argued. I couldn’t believe I was seeing all the justices in person! Note to self -- look up law schools.
Next stop was the Capitol building tour. I loved seeing everything I’ve read about in my history books come to life. Everything from the Rotunda to the House Galleries was unreal. It was also cool knowing I was walking the same halls as some of the most powerful Americans, past and present day.
After lunch we did a scavenger hunt in the National Museum of American History. We saw the original Star-Spangled Banner, Dorothy’s red shoes from “The Wizard of Oz,” and so much more. That evening, we were split into groups and given current events topics to discuss. We had the opportunity to hear many different opinions on the same topics and to learn from each other.
Friday: Marine Museum, Mount Vernon, and 8th & I Parade
When I saw this day on the itinerary, I was excited to learn about the Marine Corps, and visit such an important home as Mount Vernon!
Our first stop of the day was the National Museum of the Marine Corps, where we were greeted by an active-duty Marine who shared his story with us. He also reminded us to thank the veterans that volunteer at the museum, because it was their sacrifices that have made us who we are today. Then we explored the history of the Marine Corps and the roles they have played throughout their existence. My favorite part was in the Korean exhibit; as you enter the room made to look like winter, the temperature drops to help make you feel like you were with the fighting Marines.
Next, we were off to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Once there, we were able to explore the grounds and see the outbuilding and animals. The mansion itself is beautiful, and the view of the Potomac River from the porch is amazing. While we were there, we had the opportunity to pay our respects to the General and Mrs. Washington by visiting their gravesite.
After a short stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial, we went to the Marine Barracks, which is the oldest post of the Marine Corps. I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining night than watching the 8th & I Parade inside the Marine Barracks. These Marines have an unmatched mastery of sword and rifle drill!
Saturday: Arlington, Newseum, and Awards Banquet
I can’t believe it’s already the last day! This week has flown by so fast, and I’m not ready to leave. This morning, we went to Arlington National Cemetery, where four students were chosen to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony. It was remarkable watching the Honor Guard as they performed the sacred service in honor of America’s fallen soldiers. We also visited the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and Robert E. Lee’s House while at the cemetery.
Next on the agenda was the Newseum – probably the coolest museum I’ve ever been to. I saw a real part of the Berlin Wall, a gallery dedicated to 9/11, and I was even a reporter in the NBC Interactive Newsroom. But my favorite part of the Newseum was seeing a movie about journalism in the 4-D theater!
We headed back to the hotel early so we could get ready for the awards ceremony. My roommates and I were trying to figure out who would get superlatives and who would get scholarship money. Even though I worked hard during the week, I couldn’t predict if I would get a scholarship – everyone here is deserving of one.
At the ceremony, we listened to our guest speaker talk about the importance of fighting for what we believe in. Then came the superlatives – we voted on several categories, and it was fun to see who we picked for each! Lastly, scholarships were awarded – the room was tense as we waited for each name to announced. Although I didn’t win a scholarship tonight, I am proud of my achievements and those of the other students, and I will work towards my Grand Scholarship Application when I get home.
Sunday: Going Back Home
I never imagined that when I arrived here Monday that my life would change. I went to Y.E.S. not knowing how to debate to becoming Best Debater. I’ve gained so much confidence in myself that I am ready to rock my senior year of high school and show everyone what I’m made of. I love how I’ve also made life-long friends that I plan on staying in touch with over Facebook or whatever new thing comes along. Maybe we will even end of going to the same college!
I’ve found my passion in life—there’s no doubt I want to be a Marine. My other friends have decided they want to go into politics, media or law. Whatever they decide to do I know they will be successful. I’ve never met an entire group of people my own age that have the same beliefs and values as I do. It’s nice knowing there are other people out there like me!
I want to make a difference in the world and I want to start with my Grand Scholarship Application. I need to introduce NRA programs in the community, which I’ve decided on doing Eddie Eagle, and I need to get the word out about the Y.E.S. program. Everyone needs to experience this—whatever their background! It is my duty to pass the torch of knowledge to my peers. If my generation doesn’t get involved, who will?
I can’t wait for this plane ride to be over, but at the same time, once it’s over my Y.E.S. week will have officially ended. But as they say, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”