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“We will all … make mistakes. At times, we will feel the intensity of simply being human, of being flawed … but see, those human flaws are really not what’s important. What’s important is that we try. What’s important is that even in imperfection, even in the heat of feeling human; we keep pushing onward. We listen. We learn. With each time we feel imperfect, we grow as individuals, and as leaders. What’s important is that we keep going.”

Lainey Newman, Opening Ceremony

Throughout the week, Presiding Officer Lainey Newman’s continuous message has been: While we are here to achieve greatness, no one is perfect. Lainey started Youth in Government as a freshman and came to the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs for all four years. She has served her state program in Pennsylvania as Senate Majority Leader, twice as lieutenant governor and once as governor. She made it to Plenary her third year on The Mountain.

Lainey can remember back to when she was a young delegate and watching the P.O.s be so confident and amazing. She still looks up to many of them and is honored to be able to hold this position.

Lainey hopes to provide other delegates with the same incredible experiences she has had. She wants every person who comes to CONA to gain something from the experience, whether it is from chamber or outside of them. She loves being able to hear conversations between people from all over the country that you cannot hear anywhere else.

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Lainey delivers a speech to delegates during opening ceremony. PHOTO by Abbie Skladan

Lainey expresses amazement at the opportunity to serve in this leadership position and stresses once more that the P.O.s are not perfect.

“We’re not perfect, we make mistakes, we mess up Parli-Pro, but its been a blast so far. Hearing the inspiring debate is super rewarding.”

Lainey is majoring in government and minoring in global health and policy at Harvard University. She hopes to go to law school, where she plans to focus her efforts in the area of either labor laws or anti-trust laws. Farther into the future, she wants to work in politics Pennsylvania, where she is currently interning for the governor of Pennsylvania.

By Ashley Hatch, CO

 

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Joey Compton carries American Flag at opening ceremony. PHOTO by Amelia Blair

On this day, 242 years ago, the declaration of independence was signed making America an officially independent nation. As the week of CONA happens to fall on July the Fourth every year, it is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the patriotism each of us feels here on The Mountain. In order to articulate this feeling, we asked delegates what they would give America if she was here in human form.

Answers ranged from tangible items to physical experiences that delegates could gift to America to help celebrate her 242 years of providing citizens with life, liberty, and happiness.

Delegates answers included:

  • A pet eagle
  • A private concert with “the real Queen of America,” Beyonce
  • Liberty and Justice for all
  • A 24 pack of Bomb Pops
  • A tapestry of the Constitution
  • A gift receipt to a spa retreat, for “much-needed” relaxation
  • A big hug
  • Glasses to see clearly
  • A flashlight so she can find her way in the dark
  • A cute kitten because “everyone deserves something warm and fuzzy”
  • The opportunity to be on here The Mountain and just enjoy life

The media team even had the distinct honor of obtaining an answer from a real politician and former delegate, Kenneth Gordon Mullinax, Jr., who has not had the opportunity to come back to The Mountain since he was a P.O. in the year 1977. His answer dove into the political reality of America today and what he believes our country truly needs.

Mr. Mullinax said, “I think America for the Fourth of July needs a big dose of tolerance. We need to be tolerant of our fellow brothers and sisters that live here in this country, as well as those who are visiting. After all, if you’re involved in being religious whatsoever, the Golden Rule is what it’s all around. Tolerance is my gift to America.”

As we celebrate the Fourth of July on this beautiful mountain, consider, what would YOU give America for her birthday?

By Ashley Hatch, CO and Gloria Ogunlade, TX

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Eddie and CONA delegates at the 2016 conference. Eddie is third from the left.

Today as we celebrate the Fourth of July, most are filled with a sense of patriotism and thankful for all the freedoms we enjoy each day. Every day there are people fighting to ensure our liberties and freedoms continue.

Many of us come to CONA because of this feeling of patriotism that drives us to try to improve our country. For one delegate that feeling of patriotism went beyond CONA and drove him to join the Navy. Edward (Eddie) Fantauzzo, a Colorado delegate, was supposed to be attending his third CONA conference this year; however, Eddie decided to make the brave leap of enlisting in the Navy. He is unable to attend CONA this year because he is supposed to ship out in early July to begin serving his country.

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Eddie with other Colorado YIG officers his junior year (2016). Eddie appears four from the left.

Throughout high school, Eddie participated in three years of Youth in Government and two CONA conferences. At CONA both of Eddie’s proposals dealt with education. The first was about providing a worldview/ world religion classes in schools and the second was about changing the maps we use in schools to teach geography so that they are more accurate for students.

During high school, Eddie participated in programs including speech and debate, Youth in Government, and of course, CONA. Unfortunately, Eddie had to find his own patriotism and forge his own path in the military. His very small high school, Resurrection Christian High School, did not offer any ROTC or military affiliated programs.

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Eddie with other delegates during the 2016 CONA conference. Eddie is on the right end in the black jacket and pants.

CONA and YIG have been driving forces in Eddie’s growing patriotism. He explains, “CONA showed me all the different ways that Americans live. Going to a Christian school kept me in a kind of bubble but YIG and CONA helped a lot and I felt what it meant to be an American it also helped open my eyes to many issues that we face and so I’m joining the navy to become a Navy Chaplin and I’m going to enlist in the meantime to gain experience with other sailors. I want to be a Chaplin because they help sailors with counseling and religious practices which and the two most important issues in my life and I have talked about them with many people at CONA which has grown my experience and knowledge on the subjects.”

So, as you enjoy this Independence Day at the beautiful Blue Ridge Assembly on top of The Mountain consider not only what we as delegates are doing to improve our country, but what others, including former delegates, are doing to serve our great country. Happy Fourth of July delegates!

By: Ashley Hatch, CO

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Eddie and the Colorado CONA delegation at the 2017 CONA conference closing ceremony

One of the most popular and well known traditions of the CONA conference is the opportunity to trade delegation shirts. Delegates all over the conference look for their favorite shirts or the most rare shirts to trade. This year many states have designed shirts that are important and specific to them and their state. One state has designed a shirt that was aimed at inspiring other delegates and youth around the country.

DelewareShirtFrontAt the beginning of the week delegates had the opportunity to retweet and like their favorite shirt on social media. Delaware’s shirt won this contest so let’s learn a little more about this shirt.

Shirt designer, Lucy Zuo shared with us that the shirt began with an idea from her advisor, Toph Patterson. Because Lucy designed the shirt for the past years conference, she was also tasked with designing the Delaware CONA shirt. Surprisingly, this is only the second experience that Lucy has ever had with any type of physical design! Even though she is still learning she is very pleased with the design.

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Delaware’s hashtag crazed shirt has an important meaning behind it. This importance spreads not only through Delaware and CONA but youth through out the country. Lucy explains “In this past decade, we have seen the rise of social media being used for advocacy. In these past few years, this concept really came to life as there were SO many advocacy campaigns promoted through hashtags…this social media revolution encourages youth involvement where that was not necessarily prevalent before. This design highlights how involved the youth have become with their communities and the world around them. And at a conference of youth such as this one, that concept should most definitely be brought to light, praised, and encouraged.”

As for how they chose the hashtags on their shirt Lucy attributes credit to another Delaware delegate, Sarah Jones, as well as others that provided her with lists and example of hashtags and causes they wanted to feature on their shirt. Lucy also says she used the ever popular tool Google.

Delaware chose the colors of the shirt because the Delaware state flag is blue and gold. The chose a different blue than the flag because they like the color scheme of navy with gold better.

While the Delaware shirt as a whole is amazing and inspired, Lucy says her favorite part is the negative space on the back of the shirt in the shape of Delaware in the middle of all the hashtags. Lucy would also like to note that in the hashtags you should look for the small one that states, “#YIGnotYAG” as it is a Delaware YIG trademark!

By Ashley Hatch

While more than 600 delegates from 39 states have the opportunity to be selected and attend the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs, it is a rare privilege to be one of the six invited after your YIG high school career to help govern the next year’s conference.  They are chosen by their fellow delegates and the P.O. Selection Committee based on their distinguished passion, leadership and performance. Grace Miller, who will serve as Wednesday’s Presiding Officer of the day, provided us with a more in-depth view on being a P.O. at CONA.

“I’m really here to make sure that each individual delegate has the best experience possible, finds what they’re looking for and finds the best version of themselves here on this mountain,” Grace said. “It’s such an honor for me, because this mountain was a life-changing experience for me, and it’s amazing to be a part of that experience for other people.”

During her time in YIG, Grace served as Florida’s Senate President and Lieutenant Governor. Attending CONA for the fourth time as a presiding officer, she is able to share advice and her own personal input about the experience to current and future delegates.

“Look around, take a deep breath, and realize how lucky we are to be here. We are quite literally the young people our parents talk about who will correct their mistakes and make this world a better place…you are so much more than worthy of being here, in this moment, right now.”

Grace Miller, Opening Ceremony

“I think the hike is one of the best parts of CONA,” Grace said, “There’s a lot of symbolism in getting to the top of the mountain and being able to look out over everything and find yourself.”

Grace is currently attending the University of Richmond in Virginia. While she is not yet set on one career for the future, she has taken advantage of many opportunities at college and welcomes any ideas.

Grace is majoring in political science, business management consulting and journalism. “I either want to go into news media or maybe local consulting, I’m not really sure. I’m just really exploring as much as I can in college,” she explained.

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Grace Miller addresses delegates at opening ceremony. PHOTO by Caroline Bell, NC

To Grace, being a presiding officer is not only a duty to facilitate but something she loves doing.

“What brings me back is that it’s so refreshing,” Grace said. “It’s so amazing to be in a room where you know that everyone around you cares as much about this country and its people as you do. Being able to have these open, constructive conversations with people without being worried about your opinions being different from someone else’s allows you to have genuine conversations. Especially with the political climate now, coming here is so refreshing.”

By Gloria Ogunlade, TX

“Difficult and complex issues, from abortion to our country’s role in the world, will be debated here. It’s inevitable that we’re going to disagree. So are we unified? Can unity only be found in uniformity? No. Our unity here is derived from our diversity. At CONA, the nature of your beliefs does not dictate the platform that you have to speak.”

Blake Sloane, Opening Ceremony

Blake Sloane believes that his job as a presiding officer is to be a facilitator and to serve every delegate in order to help them have the best CONA experience possible. He wants to make sure delegates are able to use CONA as a platform for their voices to be heard. Blake says, “I can’t think of a single experience in my life that I’ve grown more from, than coming to CONA each year.”

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Blake Sloane speaks to delegates at opening ceremony. Photo by: Abbie Skladan

Blake loves CONA because it gives him the opportunity to meet new and amazing people. More than that though, he loves the fact that he can learn more about people’s perspectives and why they believe what they believe. Blake began participating in YAG during his freshman year of high school. During those year he ran as a sergeant at arms, served as a committee chair as well as a party chair, and ran for California YAG Governor. Blake was among of the top five candidates for governor. Currently Blake is studying at the University of Arizona where he is majoring in political science with a concentration in international relations and he is minoring in economics and Middle Eastern studies. He has even had the opportunity to learn Arabic! As for the future, Blake sees himself working in politics but is considering going into the military after school.

By: Ashley Hatch, CO

 

“You’re probably sitting behind someone who lives hundreds of miles away from you, in a city or town that looks at community values and norms in a completely different way than you. At CONA, we look at that difference, we celebrate that difference. We highlight that juxtaposition and try to have people from completely different sides of the aisle, solve the same issue, together.”

Will Lowry, Opening Ceremony

Will Lowry’s Youth in Government experience began quite differently than one might expect. He was playing the trombone in the sixth grade band, when a eighth-grade friend sitting next to him excitedly told him about a program in high school known as YIG. Will joined YIG his freshman year and has enthusiastically participated ever since.

Above all things, it was the myth of Cheerwine and the prospect of sitting on the porch of Eureka that brought Will to CONA in the first place. What brings him back to The Mountain is the knowledge that the delegates on the porch practicing discourse are the future leaders who have the potential to change the world. Will never would have dreamed he would have the opportunity to come back to The Mountain as a presiding officer. In fact, he was checking his Twitter account when his name was announced. Currently, Will is pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration and a minor in economics at the University of Michigan. He loves software development and hopes to go into app development and change healthcare through better user interface. You can find out more about Will and what CONA means to him in a special one-on-one interview tonight. Watch for our broadcast.

Story By Ashley Hatch, CO

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Presiding Officer of the Day for Sunday, Will Lowry, MI, speaks during opening ceremonies. PHOTO by Abbie Skladan, NC