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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

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By Greggory Sullivan, PA

Staff Writer

Each summer, select delegates from each state attend the Conference on National Affairs (CONA), but often, the delegates involved with the statewide judicial programs decide not to attend. This is because CONA only involves legislative and media positions. Delegates of the judicial program usually prefer to attend the National Judicial Competition (NJC).

Held each summer, NJC is a chance for accomplished attorneys and justices to display their skills and indulge their passion for the judicial system on a national level. Just like the statewide model conventions, NJC is comprised of several rounds of case arguments involving attorneys who argue either side of a case and justices who ask tough questions in order to test the attorneys’ preparedness. The best, most well informed and most prepared move on to higher rounds. NJC also includes a mock trial where delegates carry out a full-blown court case with witnesses, prosecuting attorneys and evidence. This is also featured at most model conventions, but some states’ judicial programs are too diminutive to fill out all of the roles involved with the trial and so, forgo it at state conventions.

It should be noted, however, that NJC is not exclusive to delegates of the judicial branch, nor is CONA exclusive to non-judicial delegates. Opening oneself to new experiences and trying different things is how one achieves personal growth. Therefore, judicial delegates are allowed and even encouraged to apply for CONA, and non-judicial delegates are welcome to attend NJC to experience the judicial program at its finest. Harrison Vollmer, a third-year Florida delegate, attended NJC without any prior experience in judicial and had a great time. “NJC is a really great opportunity for any delegate regardless of judicial experience,” says Vollmer. Likewise, many judicial delegates are more than content with filling a legislative or media role at CONA. That is exactly what the Youth and Government program is all about: stepping out of one’s comfort zone and trying new things to grow and become a more rounded person.

Leah Schweibinz, NC and James Farnsworth, MN

Staff Writer and Social Media Manager

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From bow ties to long ties, three-piece suits to two-piece and, for ladies, skirts and blouses, dresses or pant suits there are many options for CONA fashion. What delegates choose to wear says a lot about what they like and who they are. Delegates have different interpretations of what business casual or business professional is. “Business casual, to me, is more of the lax business formal. It’s skirts and flats instead of the heels and the traditional pantsuit. It’s more relaxed, but still classy and conservative,” explained New York delegate Erin Loftus.

During the conference, it is common to see a variety of classy styles, such as Lilly Pulitzer for the ladies and bowties for the guys. Since delegates that attend CONA are from all across the United States, people bring their own unique takes on business casual or professional and how they want to represent themselves.

Kacey Reeves, TX

Staff Writer

 

The rising student leadership of Youth and Government gathered mid-June in the Nation’s Capitol for the annual Youth Governor’s Convention. States sent a combination of governors, lieutenant governors, and secretary generals to represent their delegations.

The convention focuses on conveying the importance of advocacy and networking as well as preparing the officers to run their future state conferences. “It helps you build the character that you already have.” Zaverie Harris, former Texas Youth Governor, said.

The sessions stressed the officers to realize the importance of demonstrating respect and compassion to all delegates.

“The conference showed me how to systematically and genuinely care for other people. It really hit home that leadership isn’t just about changing the world but that on a daily level it’s about caring for others,” Luke Davis, rising Oklahoma Youth Governor, said.

The five-day convention allowed the officers to bond together and form lasting friendships. “One of my favorite memories was when I realized that all of us were equals,” Andre Glosson, rising Washington DC Mayor, said.

 

 

By Greggory Sullivan, PA
Staff Writer

Amanda Johnson

Amanda Johnson

Q:  How many years have you been in YAG, and how many years have you gone to CONA?

A:  This is my fourth year in YAG, my third at CONA.

Q:  What do you do outside of YAG?

A:  I am part of the student government at my college, I started a political discourse association and I participate in political activism.

Q:  What college do you attend and what is your major?

A:  I attend Kalamazoo College with a major in economics and political science and a minor in Chinese.

Q:  What do you plan to do after college?

A: Immediately afterward, I would like to do a language study on Chinese, complete law school and then go into politics or non-profit politics.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to say to all of this year’s delegates?

A:  Put passion into action; if you’re passionate about something, do something about it. Write a proposal, send a letter to your local congressman and don’t just let your passion sit around.

Emily Vigliotta

Emily Vigliotta

Q:  What are your responsibilities as a Presiding Officer?

A:  My job as a PO is based one hundred percent around service. It’s an honor as well, but the center of everything we do is about making this conference the best we can for the delegates. I’m enjoying myself, of course, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to give back to the program by helping the delegates enjoy themselves.

Q:  How many years have you been in YAG, and how many years have you gone to CONA?

A:  Six years for both.

Q:  What do you do outside of YAG?

A:  I participate in several Catholic groups on campus, where we talk about what our religion means to us and our lives as students. I also play tennis recreationally.

Q:  What college do you attend and what is your major?

A:  I go to the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts. I major in accounting and my minor is in the philosophy of religion.

Q:  What do you plan to do after college?

A: The goal is to work for one of the four biggest accounting firms in the nation. Ideally, it would be PWC.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to say to all of this year’s delegates?

A:  Seek out the purpose in what you’re doing and why you’re here. And don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

By Greggory Sullivan, PA

Staff Writer

Combining proposals can be a great way to help committees get through bills more quickly and efficiently. The purpose of offering delegates the opportunity to combine proposals is to prevent any one committee from debating the similar ideas more than once, as this becomes boring for all involved. However, the current system for combining proposals may be flawed. Delegates work incredibly hard to prepare their proposals for the conference and it can be disheartening to find out that another delegate had the same idea, even more so if that delegate’s proposal is chosen as the base for the combined piece. Therefore, some delegates choose not to combine their proposals. This maintains each delegate’s pride and ability to present their original work for debate, but if too many delegates in a single committee abstain from combining their proposals, committees end up debating a great number of similar topics, leading to boredom, apathy and distraction in the committee rooms.

The Presiding Officers prefer to refrain from encouraging or discouraging the combining of proposals, as it is the right of each and every delegate to make that decision on their own. The Mountain Manual does not require that similar proposals be combined, and similar proposals cannot be dispersed across multiple committees because the topics are required to remain in one committee to maintain consistency.

Delegates have expressed the opinion that more time should be allotted on the first day of the conference for combining proposals, as a majority of the committee orientation time is consumed by instruction and introduction to the program. Because of this, delegates believe that they may have combined too hastily and were left ill-prepared, while others don’t think that they were given enough time to work out a compromise with or to find the other delegates that have similar proposals. Because the proposals are posted prior to the conference, delegates can contact each other before arriving on the mountain via social media, or, once they get here, they can try to find their potential combination authors before First Committee.

Although delegates who decide not to combine out of pride or principle, may be setting their proposal up to fail, First Committee did serve to root out many duplicate proposals resulting in more enthusiastic delegates.

By Greggory Sullivan, PA

Spencer Perry

Spencer Perry

Q:  What are your responsibilities as a Presiding Officer?

A:  Presiding Officers create opportunities for growth and leadership for the delegates.

Q:  How many years have you been in YAG? How many years have you gone to CONA?

A:  This is my fifth year for both.

Q:  What do you do outside of YAG?

A:  I’m interning at the California Attorney General’s office this summer; I’m on the executive board of college Democrats;  I’m part of my college’s Gay-Straight Alliance as well as the student government; and I am on the executive board for Kappa Sigma at my college. I also play the cello and tenor saxophone.

Q:  What college do you attend and what do you major in?

A:  I go to George Washington University. I have a double major in economics and public policy as well as a double minor in international economics and computer science.

Q:  What do you plan to do after college?

A: I want to complete law school and become a military lawyer.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to say to all of this year’s delegates?

A:  Seize the opportunities before you. Take advantage of your time here. Find a new friend, learn about someone else’s way of life and enjoy yourself.

Libby Wuller

Libby Wuller

Q:  What are your responsibilities as a Presiding Officer?

A:  I facilitate debate and provide an exceptional conference for all the delegates here.

Q:  How many years have you been in YAG and many years have you gone to CONA?

A:  Five years for both.

Q:  What do you do outside of YAG?

A:  I’m part of a group that does an event called Dance Marathon. We raise money for the DC Children’s Hospital by dancing for 12 hours.

Q:  What college do you attend and what is your major?

A:  I’m a rising sophomore at George Washington University studying political communications.

Q:  What do you plan to do after college?

A: I would like to do campaign work.

Q:  Is there anything that you would like to say to all of this year’s delegates?

A:  At the end of the day, no matter how session goes, the most important thing about conference is the memories you make and friends you take with you.