Emily Little

Friends, life lessons forged at conference

Last week, I wrote about my experience in Washington D.C. visiting the historical sites. While that was extremely fun, the real purpose of the week was the actual leadership conference I was attending. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the FFA Washington Leadership Conference with 340 other high school FFA members from across the country. I have had several friends attend WLC and tell me how amazing it was, but I really had no idea what I was in for.

I travelled with a few other girls from Florida, but once we arrived, we were quickly separated. As soon as we checked in we were ushered towards our rooms to meet our new roommates. I was the first to arrive to the room, but in half hour increments the other three girls arrived. I was concerned about rooming with people I had never met, but I quickly realized that my roommates were incredibly nice! My room – my roommates were from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Idaho - was just a quick survey of the diversity at the conference. The conference attendees were literally from all areas of America, from Oregon to Texas to Missouri.

A major aspect of the conference was being put into community groups, which were small groups with fewer than 30 people in them. When my community group first met, we were pretty awkward around each other. By day two, however, we were cracking jokes and acting like we had known each other our entire lives. We were led by an awesome community group leader, who brought us together like we were a family. By the end of the week, my community group was in tears at the thought of having to leave each other.

The main purpose of the conference was to create a Living to Serve plan, or an LTS plan. We were each asked to identify one need we were particularly passionate about. Throughout the week, we built up our LTS plan. We determined what we wanted to do about the need, what we needed to accomplish it, and who would be there to help us along the way.

To really get the idea of service to hit home, we participated in a poverty dinner. In a poverty dinner, participants are separated into four classes – high, middle, low, and natural disaster. The high class is served a full course meal and is waited upon. The middle class is able to eat at a buffet and is seated at regular tables. The low class sits on the ground around a tablecloth, and has to share a plate of rice between several people with no silverware. The natural disaster area had no food at first, but was eventually given a similar setup to the low class. The majority of us were in the low class, and about 35 percent were split between the high and middle class. This experience was designed to be realistic to the ratio of hunger in the world, and definitely taught me to appreciate what I have.

Overall, this experience was more amazing than I ever could have imagined. I made friends that I know will last a lifetime, memories that will last just as long, and lessons I have been able to carry home with me. I had heard a lot about the conference before I attended, but it did not prepare me for the journey that the week would take me on. Words truly cannot describe how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to attend.