Closing ceremonies incites jumbled emotions. Some delegates joyously hug newly made friends and eagerly anticipate the chance to return next year. But others are heartbroken, knowing that their time as a delegate is at an end.

This CONA is the last for several of our media corps members, who have had the opportunity to attend for multiple years. But even if we never return to Blue Ridge, our experiences have made lifelong changes in each of us. As we prepare to leave this mountain, we would like to share a short reflection from our years at CONA.

 Carter Coudriet  (3 years in CONA media):To the conference that has helped me to grow on so many levels, I express my fullest gratitude. I never knew how to express myself, discuss my feelings or interact with such intelligent people. After three years of support from my media friends, the CONA environment and especially my New Jersey family, I have developed a more confident and introspective personality that has impacted me way more off the mountain than I could have imagined. Whether as weatherman, staff writer, Roundtable attendee or otherwise, I leave the mountain honored to have played the role that thousands before me and thousands after me will proudly share – a CONA delegate.

Amy Dennis (2 years in CONA media):After most delegates have spent multiple years on the mountain and speak of CONA and The Blue Ridge Assembly they often use the words “home” or “family”.  For me, this could not be truer.  My first trip to the mountain was in July 1997. Needless to say as an 11 month old, I was not a delegate, but I have always been a part of the Family of Alabama.  As my parents have been the delegation leaders since before I was born, there have not been many summers when I did not get to travel to this mountain. Staff and advisers truly have raised me. Once I joined Youth in Government at the state level, I chose to be on media, because the media serves the same purpose I admired for years in the YMCA staff – to give back to the delegates in a way that is not always recognized.  What I have found to be the most meaningful part of my CONA experience as a media delegate is being able to archive this week so others can be reminded of what makes this place and this conference so meaningful.

Ja Kaufmann (2 years in CONA media, 1 year in legislative): My first year here, I remember getting off the bus and thinking, “Oh no, this was a huge mistake!” Nervous and unprepared for the week ahead of me, I was a media delegate with no clue what to do. My second year, I was a legislative delegate and even more nervous to talk on my proposal; but after First Committee and listening to all the suggestions offered, as well as seeing how kind and open my fellow delegates were, my fears and hesitations were finally put to rest. This, my final year, has been the best of my three. Overall, my CONA experience gave me an interesting outlet to debate topics I thought I knew everything about, and learn about others I knew nothing about. My times on The Mountain have been some of the best of my life, and I will always remember what it means to have the Blue Ridge Spirit.

Ali Renckens (3 years in CONA media):Three years ago, nervously walking up the steps of Lee Hall, I could not imagine the difference that week would make. Like the mountain, CONA can be incredibly intimidating. I remember feeling overwhelmed with doubts. Throughout the week, there were times when I needed someone to help me up, times when I slipped and even times I wanted to climb back down, but once I gathered the courage to conquer the mountain, I discovered a strength and spirit I never knew that I had. It is an adventure worth pursuing with everything you have.

Eriech Tapia (2 years in CONA media):The Youth in Government program has had one of the biggest impacts on my life so far! I came to The Mountain last year after serving as the Editor in Chief of the Oklahoma program and found out that there was something special here at CONA. I was a writer for The Blue Ridge Journal and although that was amazing, my delegation is what really changed my experience at CONA! Cory Shirey was the main contributor to my Blue Ridge Spirit, he gave me my first Cheerwine and helped me through first-year delegate syndrome! He always made sure that I had a great time and that I felt like I was at home. I will miss everyone at CONA and hope that the journey ahead is filled with many great wonders!

media staff