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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 colored camo tee 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.
Debate_Group
 
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 banquets take place all over the country and have raised over $170 million for shooting sports programs. I’m also putting this on my to do list when I get home.
 
NRA_Range
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 at Sandy Elkin’s house. Sandy is the Director of Grant Administration and handles all the money that comes in for Y.E.S. and hundreds of other programs. Thank you, Sandy!
 
 

Wednesday: Debates, National Archives, Sights

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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 visted 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.
 
After dinner we spent the evening touring the memorials in downtown D.C. Starting out at the Washington Monument, we made our way down to the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam War Memorial. Seeing these memorials in honor of the brave servicemen and women who died for our country was truly humbling.
 
 

Thursday: Capitol Hill, Smithsonian, Laser Tag

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 Capitolindividual 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 and Oz, and so much more. Although our team came in second place in the scavenger hunt, my laser tag team beat everyone in the games and we came in first place. Literally the best laser tag experience ever!
 
 

Friday: Quantico and 8th & I Parade

So, I saw this day on the itinerary and was excited and scared at the same time... would they make us do push ups and run? I had no idea what was in store.
 
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We arrived at Quantico Marine Corps Base at 0900. The K-9 unit was our first stop. We saw the military working dogs in action as their handlers were showing us how the dogs take down enemies. I definitely want one of those dogs!
 
...And then we met Gunnery Sergeant Acero, a real drill instructor in the Marine Corps. He climbed on the bus and started talking so fast I had no idea what he was saying, but I knew I had to reply with, “Yes, Gunnery Sergeant!” We got off the bus and I was introduced to my first drill instruction. He marched us over to the the Leadership Reaction Course where we watched Marines engage the different obstacles. Did I say I wanted to look up law schools? Scratch that--look up Marine ROTC. Ooh-Rah!
 
We bid Gunnery Sergeant Acero farewell and stopped by the Martial Arts unit and watched them perform some of their moves. Next up was the National Museum of the Marine Corps where I was further inspired by the comraderie of a Marine. We ate MREs at the Iwo Jima Memorial for dinner and surprisingly enough it wasn’t that bad.
 
I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining night than watching the 8th & I Parade inside the Marine Corps Baracks. Such mastery of sword and rifle these Marines have!
 
 

Saturday: Arlington, Newseum, 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 Cemetary 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 cemetary.
 
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!
 
Scholarships
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 guest speaker Cam Edwards of Cam & Company from NRA News talk about the importance of fighting for what we believe in. Then came the superlatives--my classmates voted me Best Debater, which also came with a bag full of NRA merchandise. Although I didn’t win a scholarship tonight, I am proud of my achievements and 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 offiially ended. But as they say, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  
 
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