We have said it many times before, but this year was just no different: The 2015 Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.), sponsored by The NRA Foundation, was a success! Students arrived from across the country to take part in the experience of a lifetime…and to compete for $30,000 in scholarships.
The Y.E.S. adventure began on Monday when all the students flew into the Washington, DC area and partook in icebreaker and orientation activities. On Tuesday the summit officially kicked off at the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, with an education on the NRA and what it does. There were discussions on Friends of NRA volunteer fundraising, the beloved Eddie Eagle, NRA Clubs and Associations, NRA University, Youth Programs and Collegiate Shooting. During the discussions President Allan D. Cors and Executive Director of NRA General Operations Kyle Weaver spoke to the students about how their support and involvement is unparalleled in the future of the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association of America.
Later, the Y.E.S Summiteers explored the National Firearms Museum, then made their way down to the NRA Range. First, all passed the NRA Range test and were given thorough reviews of each gun, proper handling, correct stance and safety by the cautious staff at the range. Then it was time for the fun! They shot handguns, rifles and semi-automatics.
As the sun rose on Wednesday, so did the students. The first stop was Hillsdale College, less than a mile from the United States Capitol. The students began their day under a painting called The Signing of the American Constitution by Sam Knecht, which set the tone for the debate on principles and civil liberties that was about to commence.
In teams of five or six, students debated on the topics of race relations within the community, permitting firearms on college campuses, the power of sports governing bodies and the requirement of passing a preliminary test to vote. Every student had a few minutes at the podium to speak on behalf of their team. “This has been a really cool experience to see kids like us [debate] at a high level,” Cole Diggins from Missouri said. “I love watching these debates. On each team, everyone is looking out for one another,” stated Natalie Fox from Nevada.
Y.E.S. got on the bus...then off again as it pulled up to the National Archives Museum. The National Archives is the permanent home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, or collectively known as the Charters of Freedom. Noted Mississippi’s Marisa Laudadio, “I want to work in politics, and it just gave me chills reading these documents in our Founders’ own handwriting.”
Now on to the monuments and memorials! For once, D.C.’s summer weather could not have been more perfect: clear blue skies, around 87°F and a slight breeze. We hoped it would hold. The National WWII Memorial was their first stop and where they met their guide, David Elliott. He explained the arrangement of the state pillars, what the 4,048 gold stars represent behind “Here We Mark The Price Of Freedom,” the meaning of the wreaths on the pillars and who Kilroy was.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was next. Elliott gave a detailed description of the 19 stainless-steel statues, the Mural Wall and the image they create when viewed together. Later, the group formed a circle around our guide at the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflection Pool. As one of the most recognized structures in the United States, their guide had much to say about the white stone memorial honoring the “Great Emancipator.”
A big, bright moon rose over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the final stop. The students were solemn as they listened and paid tribute to The Three Soldiers statue. The Y.E.S. group then followed alongside the Memorial Wall, which honors those veterans who died in the Vietnam War. Emotions rose as the students took in the numerous names upon the wall, and a humbled feeling overtook the group. Ruby Stith from California truly felt the impact of the memorial: “When I go back home, I’m going to be talking about this for years to come,” she said.
“I never had any connection to wars. Then today, seeing the memorials, gave me that connection,” Hayden Rash of Texas said. “The memorials put into perspective the freedoms we take for granted.” Read Part II here!