DANVILLE – Amanda Brown of Danville joined other teens from across the nation last month in Washington, D.C., to participate in a unique academic and career-oriented development experience, the Junior National Young Leaders Conference.
The 14-year-old, who will enter her freshman year at Bismarck-Henning High School, was nominated to attend the forum by Hannah Stoens — her physical education teacher and student council sponsor at Bismarck-Henning Junior High School — based on scholastic merit, maturity and strength of character, academic excellence and strong leadership.
In addition to being a member of the eighth-grade student council last school year, Amanda is involved with community theater and church, volunteers at the humane society and participates in band, volleyball and dance.
“She saw that I always spoke up and voiced my opinions and thought I was a good fit for the program,” Amanda said of Stoens.
Several Junior National Young Leaders Conferences take place during the summer. Amanda attended the June 22-27 conference.
Amanda and 300 other teens from across the country had the opportunity to spend six days in and around the nation’s capital, where they experienced the power of democracy among the monuments, were inspired by exemplary stories of courage, collaborated to discover solutions to some of the issues the teens face today and spent a night in a museum among new friends.
Amanda said she learned about important life lessons, such as perseverance and being humble, from author Anthony Robles, who became a champion wrestler despite being born with only one leg, and former U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-New Jersey, who served in Congress from 2001-2009.
“Mike Ferguson talked about humility and putting everyone ahead of you,” Amanda said. “He also said if you fail, you have to keep trying.”
During the visit with Ferguson in the Capitol, the teens sat where the congressmen and congresswomen sit and toured the inside of the Capitol dome, Amanda said.
The teens also visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where Amanda was thrilled to see the Batmobile from the Tim Burton-directed film “Batman” and the collection of gowns worn by U.S. First Ladies throughout history, starting with Martha Washington.
“They were beautiful,” Amanda said. “I loved the real old ones.”
The experience also afforded Amanda the opportunity to visit a few presidential memorials and other monuments, including Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, as well as the Korean and Vietnam war memorials.
Amanda said she enjoyed visiting the Newseum, where she learned more about the FBI, investigations and crime scenes. A fan of the musical “Hamilton,” she especially liked seeing the front page of an 1804 newspaper that covered a duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, who was former Secretary of the Treasury at the time.
The young leaders also spent the night at the Maryland Science Center, where they watched a movie and slept on the floor there.
“It was cool to be sleeping in a museum,” she said.
The purpose of the conference is to help students build the confidence and skills needed to excel in high school, college and the workplace. The teens learn how to adapt to and communicate in new situations, new challenges and with new people, which are essential skills for success.
The 300 teens at the conference were divided into smaller groups of four or five and spent a few days tackling an issue teens face today. Amanda said her group was charged with finding a solution to teen stress.
“A lot of teens have stress, but teens don’t talk about it,” she said.
Her group developed an idea for an anonymous hotline that stressed-out teens could call to talk about their issues and receive advice from experts.
“I feel like an organization like that really needs to be started,” she said. “It makes me want to pay attention more to people and help them.”
Some of the issues the other young leaders tackled included making education affordable, cleaning up the oceans and preventing bullying.
Amanda said the experience made her feel more confident.
“I’ve thought about going into theater, and this helped me to speak to people and be confident,” she said. “I had to make friends; I had to learn to be outgoing.
“It was worth it to go,” she said.
The Junior National Young Leaders Conference is one of the Envision family of programs (www.envisionexperience.com) that enable students to explore their interests and experience learning beyond the classroom.
Since 1985, Envision programs have served more than 800,000 students in more than 145 countries, with programs designed to help students develop the leadership, scholarship and career skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive college and career landscape.