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Compiled by Leah Schweibinz, N.C.


1. She’s originally from Michigan.
2. She studies Economics at Harvard.
3. After she had a mini-life crisis (turning 19 and being forced to create grocery lists and budgets), she has attempted to rekindle her youth through dancing in the rain and searching for deeper meaning in children’s books. Her favorite thus far being, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
4. She’s a word game enthusiast; so feel free to ask her to play a rousing game of “Contact.”
5. In defending her choice to eventually go skydiving, she reasons that it is safer than bungee jumping.

1. He is originally from  California.
2. He studies urban studies and political science at Columbia.
3. He watches “Jeopardy!” most days.
4. He studied Japanese for about six years and has forgotten almost all of it.
5. His uncle is a writer for “The Simpsons.”

1. He is originally from Alabama.
2. He studies accounting and finance at the University of Alabama.
3. Outside of school, he is an athletic photographer, working for ESPN and the University of Alabama. His work has been published on ESPN’s and UA websites and in UA publications.
4. He’s an avid folk/bluegrass fan.
5. He’s an equities and investing nerd, and just recently returned from the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder’s meeting in Omaha, NE (Warren Buffett’s company).

Caroline BW (1 of 1)





1. She’s originally from North Carolina.
2. She studies politics at Harvard.
3. When she was young, her dream job was to be an actress on Law & Order, so she joined YAG to get some courtroom experience. Her acting dreams have since faded, but her interest in the law stuck.
4. When she was 7 years old, she was so excited to go ice-skating that she ran into a wall. She had to get stitches and never made it to the rink but has a scar.
5. She is the proud owner of a gold 2002 Subaru named “Tweedy.”

1. She’s originally from Kentucky.
2. She attends MIT and is majoring is biomedical engineering.
3. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
4. She loves to knit and make ceramics in her spare time.
5. She has traveled to 14 countries.


By Leah Schweibinz, NC

Our presiding officers, our conference director and the chief executive officer of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly each brought something powerful and profound to the opening session this morning.

Shantell Williams urged each of us to ask why. As a delegate, she sat in her second committee strongly supporting a proposal, and yet remained silent. So she asked herself, why? In a coordinating theme, Conference Director Sam Adams encouraged us to ask why not? He talked of Jimmy Carter and his experience in the U.S. Naval Academy. Although Carter was in the top 7 percent of his class, he was truly unhappy and then he realized he hadn’t tried his best. Carter was asked, “why not?” The question haunted him.

Ben LeZebnik reminded us that it takes two to tell the truth. Although we have many differences – race, political beliefs, what states we come from, our socioeconomic classes and many more – we are all given this incredible opportunity to come together as one in hopes of the betterment of our nation, he said. Next, Kurt Eckel told us how the Blue Ridge Assembly began. Willis Duke Weatherford founded the assembly in 1906. Weatherford was highly involved in Christian organizations and speaking to young adults in hopes of helping them grow. He traveled all over the country and realized one day that he spent more time on the train than he did actually helping individuals.
Weatherford’s idea: a centrally located place where young adults from all over our country could come together and take time away from the day-to-day to spend time with our creator and His creation.

Our life is many separate journeys, said our PO of the day, Nicole Zatorski. She urged us to recognize the beauty of the Blue Ridge Spirit, take advantage of this conference, be positive and face our obstacles.
Ben Jackson pointed out that Winston Churchill is remembered for his inspiration and not the fault of his earlier self, much like the CONA delegates. CONA delegates are the best of the best, and he stressed that we are all qualified.

Caroline Tervo welcomed us home and relaxed us all by asking us to simply take a deep breath. She encouraged us to really experience every single moment and to get the full experience of this short, fleeting conference. Don’t forget, we are all #blessed.

Lastly, Patrick Flanigan told us the story of his first year on the mountain. Believe it or not, he confessed he was a shy and intimidated, freshman boy. Scared and silently going through the lunch line, an older girl took a genuine interest in his story. That is the true beauty of CONA. People from all walks of life join together on this remarkable mountain and take a genuine interest in each other. Be the act of kindness that is never forgotten.

The 48th Conference on National Affairs featured a new way for delegates to meet and mingle inside Eureka Hall on Saturday.

The delegates took part in a swap reception where delegates were able to trade shirts and pins and chat about the conference in general. The reception had music playing as well as water, tea and food. The governors also had a governor rap cypher or “rap battle” in the lobby during the reception.

“It’s a great bonding experience, and then a great reunion experience for some of us that know each other,” Indiana governor Jeff Owens said. “It’s a great chance for other governors to reach out to other delegations.”

Many delegates from previous years brought their pins from past years. Each state had a wide variety of pins alongside shirts. South Carolina for example had a pin that gave tribute to the victims of the Charleston shooting.

“I have a few [pins] from last year,” Florida delegate Kimmey McMillin said. “What I did since I’m from Florida is I got some Walt Disney World pins.”

In the last few years, mixers have been from dances to other events. This year the mixer is a more laid back approach for delegates to mingle before the conference.

“Last year there was a lot more dancing,” McMillin said. “It’s a lot more fun to mingle with everybody.”

One of the many goals of the mixer is to create a bonding experience for not only returning delegates but for first-year delegates. Many delegates have said that they feel that the trade reception worked great.

“This is the best way to kickoff a conference in my opinion,” Oklahoma delegate Luke Davis said. “Most conferences you go to, it’s more structured when you go there, but this conference is pretty much ‘alright everybody, meet’, and it’s great.”

By James Farnsworth, MN

As old as the assembly itself are its traditions, although new traditions are quickly taking shape. Besides drinking Cheerwine and wearing seersucker print fabric on Tuesday, each delegation participates in its own unique traditions.
The ‘Family of Alabama’ Delegation Leader Bea Tisher explained that “for all of us, the family aspect is what makes CONA home for us.”

In a hallway on the second floor of the Blue Ridge Center are the ‘warm and fuzzy’ boxes of the Alabama delegation. Tisher said warm and fuzzy boxes are decorated boxes where the Alabama delegates drop compliments or words of encouragement into the boxes of their fellow delegates.

The warm and fuzzy boxes let “[delegates] know what they mean to our family,” said Tisher.

Ellie Smith’s New Jersey delegation creates bead bracelets which include delegates’ names and an adjective that describes their delegation for that year. Smith said those descriptive words may include ‘courage’ or ‘family.’
“To us, they represent the unity of our delegation,” said Smith. “We are all connected by these bracelets.”
For Tyler Tran, delegation leader from Missouri, “Traditions are really important to us,” he said. “Traditions are what tie us together.”

In Missouri besides ‘initiating’ new CONA delegates with Cheerwine on the steps of Eureka Hall, Tran added that a chant, which brings Missouri delegates together is ‘MO money, MO problems, MO YIG.’

Washington State delegation leader Denise Chen helps to tie her delegates together at the end of each day with a tradition called the Pit and Peak. Chen said the pit and peak stands for the pros and cons and is a way for delegates to share their new CONA experiences.

“[At CONA] participating in so many traditions unites us,” said Chen.

Gideon Epstein, a second year delegate from Maryland said that his delegation embodies the Blue Ridge Spirit. His delegation encourages delegates to talk to as many people as they can.

One thing that sets his delegation apart are the crab shirts that they’ve had for the past few years, Epstein added.

Scott Cunningham, South Carolina delegation’s advisor who has been coming to CONA for 18 years, said the trading and creating of shirts and pins is one of the oldest traditions on the mountain. Cunningham actually met one of his best friends trading pins on the steps of Eureka Hall many years ago. New members may feel intimidated by all of the traditions but Cunningham’s advice is “you need to embrace (the traditions), you discover them on your own and you need to experience them yourself for the first time.” But, “Never underestimate the ability of one person to have a tradition that lives on for many, many years,” he said.


By Ali Renckens, FL
Editor in Chief

Every time someone poured out their heart at a delegation meeting, every time I passed someone with soft, tear-stained eyes in the hallway, every time the gorgeous mountains made me catch my breath, every time I found myself in a conversation with someone

I would not have usually spoken to, I felt it. Over the past three years on the mountain, I have cried, shaken hands, laughed, reflected, worked and hugged. CONA delegates understand why James Taylor wrote Carolina in My Mind. It isn’t a sweet-sounding description of a beautiful place; it describes the heartbreak of missing home. To me, it describes the Blue Ridge Spirit.

“Whisper something soft and kind.” The Blue Ridge Spirit is encouragement and support, not just through words, but people going out of their way to let you know that you are worthwhile.

But it is also standing up and yelling. It is pride. Not arrogance, but pride in heritage and legacy, pride in fellow delegates and pride in your delegation.

It is the core values: respect, caring, honesty, responsibility and faith.

The Blue Ridge Spirit is a spirit of acceptance. It is embracing those who spoke against your proposal, who disagree with everything you stand for and still being able not only to tolerate them, but find a respect for and strength from them. More than that, it is friendship. It is knowing that you are not alone, “With a holy host of others standing ‘round me.” It is connecting with people you would not have usually spoken to. It is the people you bond with, the family you create by finding the deepest part of the Blue Ridge Spirit: love.

“There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.” Without it, none of the other aspects would function.
The Blue Ridge Spirit is not confined to the white porch of Lee Hall. It is not affected by how many Cheerwines were drunk, or how loudly a delegation chanted at mealtime. It is something around and inside us every day. We can go to Carolina in our minds because it is in our minds and hearts. And we can carry it with us everywhere. Even when we do not see it or cannot find it in ourselves, the spirit that we always find at Blue Ridge is made by the people, not the mountain.

“Walk her way and watch it shinin’.”

“A silver tear appearing, now I’m crying  … You must forgive me … I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind.”

Photo by Ja Kaufmann, MO


By Aleja Newman, Texas; and Ereich Tapia, Oklahoma

With the sun overhead and legs burning from the walk up the mountain, delegates took their seats Sunday morning to begin the opening ceremony for the 46th Annual YMCA Conference on National Affairs. This is the first year that the ceremony was held as the first activity of the conference.

While waiting, they sang God Bless the U.S.A. as the 32 flag and placard bearers took their places on and in front of the stage. From Alabama to Wisconsin, the delegates were called up to show their pride and show others they are here and ready to take part in this great conference.

“I feel so united and connected with my state delegation, being able to represent them was a great experience,” flag bearer Lauren Courtney of Michigan said.

The American flag, the final flag to enter the stage, served as a symbol of unification.

Although delegates hail from all parts of the country, in planes, buses and cars, they all come to be together. Opening ceremony not just signifies a kick off to the conference but a reminder that all the delegates in attendance share one common goal; to make a difference.

Conference Director Bob McGaughey told the delegates to live a life of character now and off the mountaintop. He encouraged delegates to be the change they want to see. McGaughey’s speech instilled in the delegates that even as opening ceremony started with many cheers and chants, it closed with one common tidbit of wisdom: Make new friends, share ideas, and make your difference, whatever it may be.

By Maggie Booz, North Carolina

Co-Layout Editor

Many delegations buy Cheerwine in bulk when they come to CONA. North Carolinians buy it anytime they please.

To delegates from North Carolina, the culture and environment on the mountain is everyday life, but we celebrate it just the same. In fact, we North Carolinians take pride in sharing our culture with teen-agers from all corners of the United States.

It goes without saying that Tarheels adore Cheerwine in the same fervent fashion as delegates from Minnesota and California (However, we do not subsist on the beverage during the conference). In addition, contrary to popular belief, whilewe have the ability to buy Cheerwine at the majority of local grocery stores, North Carolinians drink other beverages, too.

Meanwhile, the temperamental Blue Ridge weather does not faze us. North Carolinians are accustomed to stifling humidity, 15-minute long “hurricanes” and temperatures in the upper nineties. While we sympathize with overheated Northerners at CONA, we advise people to deal with the heat with a nice glass of sweet tea (or Cheerwine).

At the same time, Tarheels love introducing our CONA friends to the world of Southern fashion. Seersucker Tuesday is our specialty – we love this classy Southern fashion, and it is a great way to deal with the heat.

Just as bowties are a staple of CONA, they also area necessary accessory in North Carolina. All dapper Southern gentlemen sport the fashion while holding open doors for girls.

This brings me to a part of North Carolinian culture that my new CONA friends have commented on – Southern hospitality. While many girls are swooning as Tarheel men hold open doors, North Carolina girls accept this as a perk of life. We hospitably love to share our boys, Cheerwine, and even humidity with out of state delegates. We hope “y’all” enjoy your week in our state.