Mark Twain Chapter Members Attend Leadership Conference

July 02, 2019

Thousands of FFA members from throughout the country head to Washington, D.C., this summer to evaluate their personal skills and interests, develop leadership talent and create service plans that will make a difference in their communities.
More than 2,500 students are registered for the 2019 Washington Leadership Conference, the second-largest student experience that the National FFA Organization hosts each year. Created in 1969 and held annually, the conference begins June 5 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.
Mark Twain FFA Chapter Advisor Caitlin Blakely traveled with three Mark Twain FFA Chapter members this year to WLC. Mark Twain was represented by Alexis Baxter, Preston Eckler, and Kiona Austin. The 2019 WLC delegates would like to express their gratitude toward their school and community who made this experience a financial possibility.
FFA members can attend the conference during one of seven weeks through July 27. They will spend the week under the guidance of professionals, counselors and FFA staff. In workshops, seminars and small groups, members will focus on identifying and developing their personal strengths and goals while undergoing comprehensive leadership training that will help them guide their local FFA chapters. The capstone of the event will be a civic engagement activity where participants apply what they have learned to a hands-on activity.
Members also analyzed the needs of their communities, develop wide-ranging and high-impact community service initiatives and how to implement their plans with the help of their FFA chapters upon return home. Students in recent years have promoted agricultural literacy; brought attention to abuse; collected and distributed shoes to individuals in Haiti; created a hunger awareness plan and more.
While attending the conference Mark Twain members experienced the history of the nation's capital and tour landmarks including the Washington Monument, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Capitol, among others. Members also had an opportunity to participate in congressional visits during the week. Mark Twain FFA members met with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt policy staff and experience an in-depth tour of the capital. During their free time, students enjoyed the national Smithsonian Museums, the National Archives, and a trip to Georgetown Cupcakes.
The 2019 Washington Leadership Conference is sponsored by title sponsors CSX, Farm Credit and weekly sponsor Bayer, General Mills, Growth Energy, MERCK Animal Health, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Syngenta. For more information, visit FFA.org/WLC. Please contact FFA Advisor Caitlin Blakely if you or your business is interested in sponsoring future students from the Mark Twain FFA Chapter to attend the Washington Leadership Conference.

FFA Members Tell About WLC Experiences

The Mark Twain High School FFA chapter sent three students to the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. They were gracious enough to share their experiences and reflections on the trip with the RCHE.

My first impression was that there were so many other people from all over the world that came to Washington DC for a conference. All these people came from all different walks of life, to learn about somebody else’s life and how to help them.
All of the monuments were breathtaking. My favorite one would have to be the US Marine Corps War Memorial. It was the last monument on our tour which meant that we showed up to it right as the sun went down. If you walk around it, it looks like the flag is being raised. My favorite Smithsonian would have to be Natural History and American History. The Natural History had all the animals that came before us. The American History was my all-time favorite. It had a lot of the first ladies’ dresses that showed how they had changed through time. They also had Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. Did you know that she had many different pairs throughout the movie, and the ones that are in the Smithsonian are not even a matching pair?
Everything in DC is just so big and grand. They always take whatever they’re doing to the next step and go above and beyond.
What surprised me the most was when we got back to the hotel to eat dinner one night. We all had to stand outside of the room and be given a slip of paper before we could go in. IF you got pink it meant that you were high class and would be served your food. If you got white you were middle class and you had to get your own food. If you were not given a slip of paper it meant that you didn’t get to eat that night. At least that’s what we thought, they were given a small plate of rice to share and that's` all they got. At the end of it all, they explained that this is what people go through every day. The upper class has an abundance of food and they don’t tend to think about anyone other than themselves. The middle class has just enough to get through the day to day things. Then you have the people with nothing, they are begging for food and we just turn the other way and act like we don’t see them. This dinner taught us that we now know how bad it actually is. They taught us how to fix it and put our plans into action.

Our service plan was to package food for people that are less fortunate than us. We had a goal to meet and we went above and beyond it. We were having fun and looking out for the people that can’t always help themselves.
I think that this experience will help me throughout this school year because it has taught me how to make a LTS plan and follow through with it. To also stand up for what we believe in and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. To stand up for the people who cannot stand up for themselves. We are the future of this world and we need to make a change now, not later on or in the next 45 year now, or it will never happen.
By Kiona Austin

Washington Leadership Conference was a big eye opener to me, I learned many different things. The conference is primarily based around diversity. We learned how to embrace our differences in our society and how we could use them as advantages.
There were 370 plus kids there over seven weeks until the end of July. In the small group sessions, there were about 30 of us and that’s where we talked on a personal level about struggles in our community. We each developed a Learning to Serve Plan (LTS Plan) to bring back to our community.
We also had the opportunity to see all the monuments roughout the week. I think the biggest take away, other than meeting so many people from other states, was embracing the diversity of our nation. I think that it has humbled me and brings hope to the FFA organization and the agricultural field.

By Preston Eckler

The Washington Leadership Conference was a fun and educational experience. I met a lot of new people from all over the United States, including kids from southern Missouri, Oklahoma, Montana, Kentucky, and Ohio as well. I made some friendships with some of these people that I hope stay with me.
The Conference was focused on us creating an “LTS” plan, Living to Serve plan. These plans are for us to create and to bring back to our communities and apply them to help make a difference.
The Conference was a once in a lifetime experience, and it’s one I will never forget. I hope in the future more FFA kids take the opportunity to go on these trips and learn as much as they can to put towards making this world a little better, one community at a time.

By Lexi Baxter