The following are articles that have been submitted to the Media Corps and edited.  All articles are arranged alphabetically, and this post will be updated as more entries are received.

Heat is Heat and Opinions are Opinions
Arizona
By Nicole K. Mayberry, Arizona
At CONA, the one question always posed to delegates from the GRAND … Canyon state of Arizona is: “Oh, isn’t it hot there?” To which we robotically respond, “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” While our family members experience 115 degree weather in our absence, they don’t have to endure the South’s humidity, and thus, don’t experience the feeling of being a “soggy waffle” as soon as they step out the door.
However, when I consider both types of climate and ponder which one I prefer, the realization comes that neither are particularly appealing – they’re both heat. For myself, this is a direct parallel to the CONA experience. We arrive at this mountain wide-eyed, full of ambition (in my case full of cynicism) and with a plethora of opinions. We range from those who believe in a strong federal government to those who argue for “state’s rights.” Some believe in the ideals and values that their parents instilled in them at an early age, while some take on the persona of the “red-headed stepchild.” Some are surrounded by tradition and other have fought to break free from the provincial. In Arizona, we have Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats and even those who don’t believe in the party system. Despite our spectrum of diverse beliefs, if you think about it, they are all just beliefs.
Obviously, CONA’s creators understood that at the end of the day heat and opinions are simple concepts. Though we might have different versions of each, by accepting those differences, amazing things can occur. W ithout listening and embracing what each other has to say, this conference wouldn’t stand a chance of making the impact that it does on each delegate. Through acknowledgment and support, we provide one another with preparation for debate. Through civil discourse, committees like yours, can do what Congress has failed to do for years – pass legislation. And through understanding, lifelong friendships can form. The creators of CONA understood that differences don’t divide us but instead can be the foundation for unification.
As my fellow delegates and I, new and old, create our own memories on the mountain, one thing remains absolute: heat is heat and opinions are opinions. We are all beautifully unique but united nonetheless.
California Delegation Raises Sun and Spirits
 California
By Max Bouvrie, California
“Sun’s up!”–the crazy nonsensical phrase that begins a hectic cheer from the delegation hailing from the West, California.
Little did I know these cheers would evoke one of the most overwhelming feelings I would ever encounter. This feeling was a true sense of identity. Regardless of my success in committee, the new accents I get to hear, or the opportunity to debate to my heart’s content, I knew this feeling would be a highlight of my CONA experience. This is all due to the spirit, camaraderie, pride, and identity associated with the California Delegation. As I boarded my plane from Los Angeles International airport, lethargically dragging my two matching suitcases, I was not excited to say the least. I was thinking of the close friends I would miss, the long hours spent on the dirt coated plush seats of a coach bus, and the numerous hours I would spend doing what I thought was “work.” These pessimistic preconceptions would soon be proven wrong.
As I boarded the coach bus in Atlanta, my eyes immediately brightened at the sight of unfamiliar Californians practicing and revising their speeches. I felt intimidated, unintelligent, and most of all, ostracized. I sat in the back of the bus, and dazed off to the voice of Andre 3000. I was abruptly awakened by announcements over the loud and crackling bus stereo. After the announcements, I sat up, and was approached by a fellow delegate that I had first thought to be intimidating. After her first sentence to me, I could not believe how I allowed myself to make those judgments. Not because of anything I perceived, but due to her natural humility, and her courage to introduce herself. This would set the stage for almost every person I met in the California delegation, and ultimately the entire CONA population. As my delegation grew closer through the seemly constant practicing of speeches and proposal research that was expected of us, the feeling of Identity grew stronger with each day that passed. I still could not fathom that it would ever cross my mind that these people would ever reject my presence. When delegates come to CONA, they not only gain six hundred new friends, but also twenty five new family members. I can say the California delegates are my new family
When Connecticut Meets Nuevo Mexico …

Connecticut

By Ruchi Sheth, Connecticut

It can be safely assumed that every delegation, possibly with the exception of the host state, endured grueling and time-consuming journeys in various forms, whether it was by bus, plane, car, or a combination of all three. Those of us from Connecticut have a story for all of you super-enthused CONA participants. While we knew we were going to be the last delegation arriving at the conference with New Mexico in tow, we did not know what “last” actually meant.
It all began when we arrived at the Soundview YMCA in Branford, Connecticut. It was a normal summer day: tranquil and slightly humid. We began our expedition on schedule and in vivacious spirit. We got to the airport, through security and checking, and found our rightful seats. In about two hours with little turbulence, we finally stepped onto North Carolina soil where we waited to depart with the New Mexico delegation. While we mingled, ready to begin our experience, we were told to wait a little longer, because we had to pick up a stranded New Yorker. That was the impetus that sent our house of cards tumbling. We were waiting, but no one showed up. So we left, still inspired, on a bus that was to take us to the mountain.
Half an hour later, we pull into a semi-empty parking lot with a Lowes, a Staples, a Bojangles, and a Dairy Queen/ gas station on either side of us. Off of the bus, in the hot, humid, and sticky Carolina air, we went to go get dinner. Meanwhile, Connecticut delegate Casey Watts ran to Lowes to find our state mascot. With a donated plank and a couple of borrowed Sharpies, Plank was created. For those of you who have not seen it, it is a replica of the character from Ed, Edd, n Eddy. Brilliant, I know.
We were told we had 20 minutes. The brakes on our bus were questionable and new ones were on the way. Those minutes soon became two and a half hours of waiting in the cool air of Bojangles. Eventually, it arrived. We shifted the luggage and were on our way again, determined this time to arrive at the place that seemed to be avoiding us. It was time, right?
Wrong! We were on the highway for another hour before we pulled off the road again. Overheated engine. Was it time to hitchhike? As we grumbled and groaned, the bus driver was able to get the bus to run.
In true CONA fashion, we prevailed. While on this dreadful voyage with all this waiting, the Connecticut and New Mexico delegations were able to meet and become friends. It was an unforgettable time, in which ideas were shared, stories exchanged, and our CONA experience began. Without further ado, let the debate commence.
Leadership Takes Commitment
Delaware
By Keenan Roarty, Delaware
If there’s one thing in my life that I’ve learned, it’s that leadership springs out of necessity, and is forged by experiences.
Leadership, at its core, is not a singular moment or a simple command, but the culmination of all your interactions with people. It’s the relationship that a person has, characterized not by how you influence someone but the way you do. Leadership does not take intelligence or wisdom. Leadership takes commitment.
Leadership is smiling when you hold the hand of a loved one in distress. It’s the cleaning up of society, from the physical entities of waste and garbage to the moral dilemmas that plague us. Leadership is the lovechild of caring coupled with responsibility; the realization that a full embodiment of kindness requires an active effort. Leadership surrounds us in our conference. From the Delaware CLC members that wake up at 7 a.m. to the advisors who delegate and officiate responsibilities, each and every person has the ability to enact change. And the enactment of change represents not only the purpose of leadership, but leadership itself.
It requires a willingness to take the effort to help someone. So when you go to General Assembly today, step out and be a leader. All it takes is a smile to a stranger, or the compliment for a friend.
District of Columbia Youth & Government Program
Returns to Blue Ridge in Force
District of Columbia
By Jevian Gudger and Kahn Branch, District of Columbia
CONA: the acronym that delegates from the District of Columbia delegation respect and cherish. For some, this is their second or third time on the mountain, but for many others, this is the first.
Jevian Gudger, a first timer on the mountain, started off in Youth and Government as a page, serving the city council. He has since made his way from council page to council member. On the council, he overheard the unforgettable memories that one gains from this conference. He also learned the point of CONA is not only to debate and pass proposals, but to gain friends and gather information to take back to the city or state you call home. “It has been my goal for the last three years to go to CONA, and now I have finally got what I wanted,” Gudger said. “I know there will be hundreds of people from all over the United States with different opinions about you, your bill and especially your delegation, and I ask myself, ‘Am I ready for this, all the pressure, and the debate?’” Despite his doubts, Gudger makes eager predictions: “I will never forget the people I meet at CONA. I will cherish the memory of going.”
Kahn Branch, a returning delegate, mentioned that this opportunity “was a time for one to shine and to learn from the experience.” There is no doubt the entire delegation plans on doing exactly that.
Also joining the D.C. CONA delegation is delegate Camilo Rivera, “It is my first year, so I do
not know what to expect. It means new experiences and new people. New friends and new
adventures await me as I venture forth to the mysterious sea that awaits me.”
Conference Life Committee representative Yesmina Battle shares, “I have been a member of YMCA Youth & Government for two years. My first year I was chosen to attend CONA, I

honestly was not sure exactly what I would experience. My first few days I was very timid and did not speak very much in committee. I thought what I had to say did not have value. As the week went on, I learned every delegate is equal. They’re just from different places with different views. This is my last year at CONA and I plan to embrace the friendships, learn, and enjoy!”
“The Mountain is a magical place,” Branch notes. “One experience that supersedes all others is the first time you are yielded to. It is an amazing feeling; sharing your views and opinion, on the courtesy of a friend. I call them yield buddies – amazing and unbreakable friendships that anyone can attest to.”
Current YMCA District of Columbia Youth Mayor Marc Sibaja laments the nearing of his senior year saying, “I will miss this when I leave to go to college. Nevertheless, DC Youth and Government has played a huge role in this chapter of my life, and I will certainly never forget any of it.”
The delegation this year has an exceptional mix of veterans that the delegation’s first-years go to for help when needed. The delegation would not be complete without the two advisors, dubbed with the titles Mama Emma and Cousin Adam. With its notorious chants and dedicated members, the DC Delegation is once again on the rise!
Georgia: We’re Nuts!
Georgia
By Laura Margaret Burbach, Georgia
The Family of Alabama. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Republic of Texas. Many states have unique nomenclatures that describe their state and delegation. At our first meeting prior to the 2012 Conference on National Affairs, the Georgia delegation contemplated what we could possibly call ourselves that would be indicative of our state, our club and our delegation. Now, after a few days “On the Mountain,” it is entirely evident that there is only one phrase that could adequately portray our delegation: We’re Nuts.
Not only does this phrase pay homage to the agricultural history and industry in our state, it colloquially describes our personalities as individuals and our delegation as a whole. From stealing peppermints from our state director’s office at CONA planning meetings, to “speed dating: CONA style” with the Washington, Oregon and South Carolina delegations on the bus, to starting a “Cats” cheer at random in the dining hall at BRC, our delegation approaches the Y with a slightly “nutty” approach.
You could also say that the members of the Georgia delegation are nuts about each other. Each of us has the resources of 17 other delegates and three wonderful staff members who not only provide us with advice as we write and prepare to present our proposals, they also provide us with a network of confidence as we speak in front of strangers and begin making new friends. “Salt & Pepper” round-table meetings go on and on, as we recall all the wonderful things about the day. Our negative points are more often silly than bad. And these meetings often culminate in a birthday cookie-cake or a sing-along around the piano.
But beneath the goofy shell of peanut is a product that is substantial. It nourishes the soil around it, empowering other plants to grow with it. And, of course, it is sometime even infectious to those who get to close. At CONA, the Georgia delegation seeks to do just that. We aim to write and present proposals that are substantial and pertinent. We come to the mountain to grow, but we also hope others grow from their interactions with us. Finally, we hope the spirit of our state, our club and our delegation act as a contagion to those around us and that they return home with a longing for the South and their new Georgia friends.

Louisiana Shares CONA Love

Louisiana
By Jarrett Major and Sam Ingalls, Louisiana
Louisiana, like any other state, loves CONA. We dream of it from the second we leave Blue Ridge Assembly to the second we return. And in the moment that we drive up the mountain, we can sense it. We’re home. People from across the country make the yearly pilgrimage to this mountain and while it may not literally be their “home,” it becomes a home for all of us. People of all different ideological beliefs, from the radical right to the extreme left (and every in between), come to this mountain and they realize that we are all connected as Americans. People of all different faiths, races, and backgrounds come to this mountain and see that we are all human. Returning delegates know they can call this very special home. Our message is to those who are new to the mountain. You can call this home. Because after we leave this mountain, a little bit of you will be here, and a little bit of here will be in you. But don’t go home the same way you came here. Go home different. Go home with a new perspective, and don’t let the pressures of life back home change the new you. Be courageous, and take on humility. You’ll come out better. We promise. All in all, we Louisianans just wanted to join in the love for this magical place and week. We put our heads to sleep overjoyed to be here and we thank all fellow delegations for being such pleasures to share this week with. God bless and keep classy, CONA.
Bear Champion Conservative Comes Out of His Shell
Thanks to Maryland Delegation’s Support
Maryland
By Samuel Martino, Maryland
Maryland, the stereotypical home of crabs, lacrosse and an anti-conservative legislature, will now be known for something greater, something that no state has ever advocated. I am talking about equal rights for ALL bears. In the entirety of the United States of America, 99.9 percent of all bears are unemployed, creating staggering income disparity between the .1 percent of bears with jobs and those without. If bears are to be treated as equals, the rest of the country needs to get involved, and YOU can make a difference.
This equality movement for bears began with the relentless determination of yours truly, Fleet Admiral Samuel Martino. I introduced the legislation in the Annapolis State House, the oldest state house in the country still in use. Over a short period of time, a weekend to be exact, we made our voices heard for the good of every man, woman and bear in the state of Maryland. We laughed, we sang, we threw a party that caused more than 100 noise complaints from the hotel. In the end, it was an unforgettable memory that can never be duplicated. While controversial legislation passed through the House and Senate (despite my relentless Republican opposition), the committee shot down the most ground-breaking measure. Bear rights were not granted that day.
Our state can proudly say that we increased marriage rights, human rights and most importantly, gun rights for all. Amid the heated debate and well thought-out legislation, we form bonds and powerful friendships. Those with polar-opposite viewpoints end up being best friends once debate ends for the day. As a proud Romney supporter, this author is happy to say that his best friend from Annapolis will vote for Obama and protest everything I support.
The last Annapolis trip was one of the most memorable and certainly showed off how much #YAGSWAG we really have. These are the only people who could forcibly remove me from the Senate chambers for high treason, but still love me dearly. My fellow delegates and our new advisor was completely #winning. Once the party ended, I was so happy to hear Randall Ziman, our state director thought I had done a wonderful job, because at first he had absolutely no faith in me. Since then, I’ve developed so much confidence in my abilities that I can happily say I am writing this article from a Starbucks in Shady Grove as I prepare to DJ a party with a renewed excitement.
Maryland’s Youth and Gov is one of the few things I have done in my life that I can honestly say has changed me as a person. It forced me way out of my shell, and I can’t think of anything else that would have done that. Maybe that’s because we’re Maryland, where unlabeled military transports drone down the main highway and everyone thinks it’s a UFO, or where one of the smallest earthquakes to ever hit the East Coast is able to shut down all buildings and every metro stop for hours.
As our delegation’s lone conservative, I am sure they are ready to kill me for this article, but since I’ve gone past the point of no return, long live Ronald Reagan, and long live the state of Maryland, which will always have the most amazing state flag in the entire country!
Viewpoints of a Committee Chair
Massachusetts
By Victor Vuong, Massachusetts
My name is Victor Vuong. Some of you know me as the chair of Committee H. Others may know me as the handsome, Chinese delegate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hopefully, you know me as the friendly goofball who wants to make everyone feel welcome. My second year on the mountain has been wonderful so far, and I hope yours has been too. We all have our own goals that we wish to complete by the end of this Conference. Some want to reach General Assembly. Others want to make as many friends as possible. Whatever your goal may be, I wish you the best of luck. By sharing some of my own experiences throughout the Conference, I hope to bestow some words of wisdom and some smiles.
First Committee: Staring at a committee of 24 people was a little intimidating, despite having experience as a chair on the state level. I have come to realize, however, .that every delegate wanted to have fun and could only reciprocate the attitude I gave. Whether scoring in Chinese, German, or Hindu, whether delegates yield to the clerk or to my glasses (you know who you are), I found that a more lenient tone was definitely the right vibe for First Committee. I may not have been a perfect chair in terms of Committee procedure. I may have let Committee H get away with too much. But we bonded. Seeing smiles on others’ faces only reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing. Inside my placard is a goal I set on Saturday night. It reads, “I want to make sure my committee is comfortable and has fun!” And I believe, 100 %, that I achieved it. Thank you Committee H for being a wonderful committee. It was an honor.
Second Committee: Having bonded with Committee H, I was reluctant to combine with two more committees. I thought being stricter with procedure would mean absolutely no fun in committee. I was dead wrong. Chairing and clerking with Alex Streff (MN) and Paige Hughes (NY) was eye opening. They were open-minded, fun to work with, and always eager to help me whenever I needed it. I left the BRC Chapel regretting that I would no longer be chairing. But these feelings only show the strength of CONA. If you truly want that life-changing experience, you need to be as open-minded and willing as possible. Talk. Debate. Listen. Get out of your comfort zone. Take charge. You can only get as much from CONA as you put into it.
CONA is an experience that will stick with you. Please make sure that you are as proactive as possible in shaping your journey from the beginning to the end of CONA. If you ever need a friend or have a question, come visit Lee Hall. I’ll be waiting. A special thanks to the members of the Massachusetts delegation, Committee III, Alex Streff and Paige Hughes, the Texas and Georgia delegations, and anyone else for having made CONA 2012 as great as it has been for me in the past three days that have passed. I wish all of you the best of luck as you embark on your own journey.

Michigan Passes Anti-Bullying Legislation

Image

Michigan

By Malory Rodriguez, Michigan Youth Governor

Not only do Michigan Youth In Government students have an opportunity to learn about the legislative process, but they can also participate in making history.

In 2010, Youth Governors Peter Shahin and Jo Brooks created and distributed petitions that promoted anti-bullying legislation for Michigan schools. Forms were sent to high schools across the state to gain signatures, and then were collected at the spring conference. Once collected, the governors wrote and hand-delivered the anti-bullying resolution to the members of the Michigan Legislature. Emotions ran high for all involved in the creation of this legislation. One family in particular, the Eplings, was overcome with a sense of relief and accomplishment. After losing their son, Kevin, to the cruelty of bullying, the only desire they had was to share their story and make a change. Finally, in November 2011, after many months of partnerships and debate, HB 4163 passed to enact an anti-bullying policy within schools. Youth governors of 2012, Hattie McKinney and Sonali Patel, along with Michigan Youth In Government’s executive director, Brent Veysey, were there to see Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sign the bill into law. This success is just one example of the many ways that the delegates of Michigan’s Youth in Government program can and have come together to solve the issues that our state faces on a daily basis.

First Year

 
Mississippi
By Ava Maria Wolf, Mississippi
It’s the “no idea what to expect” feeling that rattled my bones as Mississipiana (combined MS and LA delegations) bolted up the mountain on a very hot and humid Saturday. Veterans screamed with anticipation, while I sat back praying the week would go by fast. However, to my surprise, the first night would end up taking my breath away. Going to bed with a smile on my face, I knew that the week had just begun. If you know Melissa Weaver’s excited scream, you can imagine how I felt the whole next day. Debating at CONA is beyond amazing; it’s addicting, you just never want to stop speaking. Plus, meeting new people every five minutes just adds to the experience. Knowing that I am going home with 500+ friends at the end of the week makes me ecstatic! Blue Ridge spirit, Eureka Treats, spirit fingers, etc. has definitely made my first time on the mountain terrific. Who knows what can happen next?
New Mexico Undergoes Transformation; CONA Family Has Their Back
New Mexico
By Valeria Ojeda, New Mexico
The New Mexico delegation has undergone a complete transformation since CONA 2011, as a delegation and even as a state program. With our state director’s first year on the job behind us, we have taken risks and leaped bounds never before attempted. Our 2011-2012 officer team worked hard to expand to all of New Mexico, create an intensive governor’s Cabinet and even have a crazy Governor’s Banquet at a local teen concert venue. This may seem small at a national scale, but to New Mexico’s growing program, it means a lot.
As a delegation, this was the first year when we had take in applications and hold interviews to compile our delegation. We’ve learned how to balance our fun-loving sombrero-wearing lifestyle with debate, and encouraged each of our delegates to push themselves. This emphasis on a work-hard, play-hard mentality lies at the center of our strengths along with the closeness within the delegation. We’ve created a strong and connected group that is always there for an encouraging word or some political advice. We value our fellow delegation members as friends, colleagues and a support system and that makes all the difference in the world.
CONA holds a special place in the hearts of each member of our delegation, with every member who can planning to return for the next year’s conference. The lessons we have learned have been incredibly important to the improvements enacted in our state conference, and we can’t wait to get more inspiration. As far as this specific conference, several members of our delegation have now progressed to second committee and many are looking promising to move onto third. One thing is guaranteed: the delegates who do progress will have a family standing behind them, not just a New Mexico family, but a CONA family.
New York Faces Giants, Gets Blue Ridge Spirit

New York
By DeVar Jones, New York
The Conference on National Affairs is a time of Eureka treats, friendship, Cheerwine and great memories that will never be forgotten. New York has a long history in Youth and Government. Throughout the conference, we each have grown. We have spent only three days on this wonderful mountain, but since the first day we have had a closer connection with each other and other delegates. In these three days, we have transitioned from a team to a family. As a family we have faced the giants, and we have become a stronger delegation each day. New York is well on their way to finding the Blue Ridge Spirit.
First Year CONA Delegation
Oregon
By Nate Belcik, Oregon
From the cloudy marble steps of Oregon’s capitol building comes CONA’s newest delegation. This year, Oregon sends a delegation to CONA for the first time in the history of our Youth and Government program.
Being a first year delegation has its ups and downs. Two weeks ago, we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to make it to the conference. Saurabh Mahajan, our Youth Governor, managed to get us organized and prepared for the conference and due to his efforts, along with the help of the Washington delegation, we were able to come to CONA this year and represent Oregon.
Oregon is represented by Saurabh Mahajan, Jeff Metzger, Aaron Carlson, John Larson, and myself (Nate Belcik). We’re all active participants in our state’s Youth and Government program. Saurabh is our Youth Governor, Jeff is our Secretary of State (Governor-Elect), Aaron and I were committee chairs, and John was a delegate.
This conference has been great so far. Our delegation is amazed at how incredibly nice and knowledgeable everyone is. The teenagers who come to CONA truly are the best of the best and we are blessed to be able to attend this conference.
Hopefully in future years we can continue to expand our delegation. Our hope is for our program to be as strong as Georgia’s or South Carolina’s, both of whom were gracious enough to let us ride on their bus to the conference.
CONA has been great and we are humbled that as a first year delegation we are creating a legacy for our delegation that will hopefully continue for years to come.
South Carolina First-Years Log Their Experience
 South Carolina
By: Rebeca Dominguez and William Cummings, South Carolina
Intro: Hello there! I’m Rebeca Dominguez and he’s William Cummings. We come from South Carolina and we’re both first-years to CONA. However, this is not our first time being on this mountain, because our state has other conferences here.
Pre-CONA (Rebeca) At this point, I’m nervous and excited. I had heard all about CONA from one of my friends at school who had previously attended, and it sounded amazing. I finally had the nerve to apply this year, and I got in. I was even so nervous/excited that I messed up the days my delegation was leaving, which means I ended up packing and getting ready on Thursday, though my delegation was leaving on Saturday. Thankfully, the pieces clicked into place Thursday night, and I didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of going to meet our delegation a day early.
Saturday, (Rebeca) I head on over to meet our delegation in downtown, thankfully at the right time. We set up lunch and wait for the delegations from Oregon, Washington, and Georgia to arrive so that we can eat lunch and go. Eventually they arrive, and I begin to meet people whose faces and names I probably won’t remember since I’m not particularly skilled in that area. On the bus, the Georgia delegation announces we’ll be doing “speed dating” where the people on the outside will rotate every two minutes. Yet again, my brain is filled with names, faces, and proposal ideas. We arrive, and I end up rooming with a girl from Virginia in a room meant for four. My advisor lets me bring over a friend from one of the other rooms so that it’s not nearly as awkward. I hang out on the steps of Lee Hall, attempting to get pins and meet people. I let my friend lead, and we end up meeting some great people. It turns into time for bed as I wait for the next day.
Saturday (William) Although this is my first experience with the Conference on National Affairs, my experience with South Carolina Youth in Government makes this my fourth time at the Blue Ridge Assembly. South Carolina’s program is unique not only because we host Middle School Model United Nations here at Blue Ridge, but also because high school YIG students run the conference for middle school students. In total, I have been here as a terrified middle school student who looked like a deer in headlights at the mic in Washburn, as a high school student coercing aforementioned middle schoolers into speaking in committee, and now as a CONA delegate. Luckily I know the names of all of the buildings, so if you’re lost, just stop and ask me for directions.
Sunday (William) Understanding the Blue Ridge Spirit, eating Eureka treats, and roasting in the confines of Lee Hall only happen at this conference, and were thrown at me all of a sudden. Yet, because of preparation by veterans and the support of new companions, nothing at CONA seems insurmountable. At state programs we can only build on the platforms of parties like the Crescent and Palmetto, debate in ornate state houses, and prosecute cases in Supreme Courts, but here we can receive criticism and advocacy from entirely different opinions. CONA exposes ideas to views outside of political isolation. Sunday is a day when everyone, nervous or not, presents proposals and begins debate. Going first in first committee is slightly stressful, as all delegates are either new to CONA procedure or just a bit rusty. Despite being full of nerves and anticipation, I see first committee as an opportunity for a small group of people to intensely debate everyone’s proposals to view a wide range of opinions. Hopefully second and third committee run as smoothly and are as engaging as the first.
Monday (Rebeca) It’s day two of debate, and the long hours with no recess get frustrating. While I do love debate, I find sitting for hours on end makes anyone anxious and fidgety. Second committee seems a bit larger, and my number of speeches seems to drop because of lack of information and an excess of people who want to talk on it. It is great to be identified by South Carolina’s amazing seersucker scarves. The party is a great device because it puts us all into an awkward situation and forces us to get together and talk (or whatever those handshakes were). Our delegation meeting is fantastic yet again, and our roundtable leader seems to be pulling it off flawlessly. Conclusion We’re starting to fit into the groove of a CONA, and I have to say, it’s amazing to meet the people and to see the ideas of a young generation come to life in front of me. I can say that I don’t have a single regret coming, and I know it’s going to be a great conference.

The Journal of a CONA Delegate

Tennessee

By Arjun Bery, Tennessee

Saturday

I woke this morning super pumped and excited to start the greatest leadership experience that I’ve been offered in my life. As we make this excruciatingly long trip I began to hear more details about the trip that help to sweeten this already great deal. Then it came, the sign to YMCA CONA Blue Ridge Assembly!  Overwhelming emotions of joy and excitement and the feeling that I’m sure everyone felt, fear. We slowly maneuvered our way with the massive bus on one of the tiniest roads I’ve ever seen up the mountain to something that shocked me. This antique building that would be my home for the next week so famously known as Lee Hall. From there everything started to go downhill…or should I say I started to go up mountain. We took our first steps off the bus to discover that the boxes that we had so recently placed on our bus had to not only be unloaded, but carried up a hill up 3 flight of steps in what was probably the most excruciating feeling that my legs had felt in quite some time; however, by the time I had made my way to the first flight of stairs, there was a group of eager delegates ready to assist me with the grueling experience that they had dealt with only a few hours ago.  Then the fear struck through as my advisor said, its time for the new delegate meeting. I realized that I wasn’t prepared for this- no opening or closing statement, not enough research to be ready for my presentation (after all, what do I know about politics?) I’ve always been a press kid. I walked over to what I hoped was Heaton Hall where I discovered 6 individuals on a stage totally prepared for this week and then it began. Our PO’s began to tell us all sorts of things about what we should do and how we should do it, but then they told us about something at this conference that makes it a little bit different than any other conference I’ve been to- the famous Blue Ridge Spirit. I recalled something my press advisor was telling me about, something about “this weird feeling you’ll get inside, but it’s not describable.” Even as I go to bed tonight I wonder what is the spirit.  I know they told us about what it is, but I’m curious as to whether or not it’s really a thing or is just something they say to try and get us to be more friendly.

Sunday morning

Ugh, I couldn’t sleep a wink last night.  It was so hot and the hallways outside my room were always making some creaky or banging noise as people walked in and out of their rooms to and from the bathroom. I’m really starting to regret the fact that I missed a great research opportunity at home to come to this thing….wait its Sunday! That means that I have to present today! I’m so exhausted and I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do, let alone say. Man this is going to be one awful day ahead of me.

Sunday afternoon

So I know this is going to sound weird, but I think I’m starting to understand this Blue Ridge Spirit thing. My PSG went great.  Everyone asked some really good questions that got me thinking about how to amend my paper to make it a more appropriate issue and what kind of questions to research.  Who knew they would be that obscure?  In addition, the opening ceremony was strangely comforting; it made me feel like I could work past my fear of public speaking. I know people always say the same things to try and make it easier, but for some reason it was more comforting this time. Now, I just sat down with a few of my state’s delegates who have worked with parliamentary procedure before (aka everyone but me) and they’ve given me some great tips on what to say in my opening and closing and now all I have to do is speak…. AHHHHH I have to get up in front of a group and speak, this is worse then taking all that luggage up to the rooms. Okay got to stay calm here I go.

Sunday after dinner

Woo hoo, I can’t believe I just got up there and spoke in front of that many people, and I wasn’t even that nervous. I think I was able to answer most of their questions, at least I hope. Everyone made it so easy, just like what they said in the opening ceremonies, “Everyone here is accepting and inquisitive so don’t be afraid to get out there and give it your all!” This gathering feeling, this feeling of unity, it’s great. No one to judge, just to help, its nice and somewhat homey. Could this be this Blue Ridge Spirit they were talking about? That weird sense that makes you want to be here, that sense that makes you actually enjoy stepping out of your comfort zone. I don’t know… I’m still trying to get past the fact that I spoke in front of people. It’s time to head back to committee!

Sunday night

It’s nearly midnight and I just finished talking to my roommate for the past 30 minutes about completely random facts and the hour or so before that out in the hall joking around with my new friends. I came into this conference completely disconnected from the other delegates from my state, always thinking, “They were delegates and I was a press kid.  What, if anything, could we have in common at an event like this?” I don’t know what happened but since I’ve gotten here I’ve sort of been a little more outgoing and open, ready to take another step into the world of CONA. Ask me a day ago and I would have said, rank me really, really high.  I don’t want to ever do this again, but now, well, I’m oddly comfortable with standing in front of this group of people and debate my ideas to see its weak and strong points. Even today I was willing to go out onto the porch of Lee Hall and introduce myself to completely random people and discuss my proposal.  I don’t know something about this environment and the people in it. Everyone says that the Blue Ridge Spirit affected them throughout their week here, so I can’t wait to see what it’s got in store for me!

Monday

This is my first conference so even I don’t know how this story ends, but I hope that each and everyone of you gets the benefits of this experience from as the “veterans” like to say, the Blue Ridge Spirit, but as I like to say, you the people here at the conference.  You are the ones who make the real difference in the environment that surrounds us, whether it be helping us present a proposal or even just the move in for the week. I look forward to the rest of my time with all of you and welcome to the 45th annual YMCA Conference of National Affairs.

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