CONA is known for many traditions, making the student government conference not only a way to debate, share and learn new concepts but also a way to socialize by taking part in tradition and having fun. Here on The Mountain, Seersucker Tuesday is a way for students across states and delegations to unite and show off their own style in the thin, patterned fabric.

Seersucker Tuesday is derived from the similar U.S. Senate tradition of Seersucker Thursday where, for the occasion, senators put on the material for a change from their usual business suits. Seersucker’s key trait is that it is a lightweight material, making it perfect for the humid heat of Blue Ridge Mountains. The popular tradition stems from the 1990s, when Mississippi’s U.S. Sen. Trent Lott designated a warm mid-June day to become a day of comfort. His goal was to make sure that people saw senators as more than stern lawmakers. This tradition is still around today, and, as it continues, so does the CONA tradition.

During the 2017 conference, Seersucker Tuesday landed on the same day as the Fourth of July.  Students either chose between the two outfit traditions or combined them. This year, the days are consecutive, so delegates will have the entirety of Tuesday to show out in their seersucker.

Delegates get excited every year to participate in this assembly-wide fashion show, and there is usually a large turnout of different seersucker attire. The same expectation for this year’s conference stands, and we’re excited to see what delegates have planned for tomorrow’s captivating tradition.

By Gloria Ogunlade, TX

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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

 

The role of the presiding officer is to maintain decorum amongst delegates and to ensure that every delegate gathered here on The Mountain has an enjoyable time. To be selected as a presiding officer is a great honor awarded to delegates who have been Copy of Zoe Bloomfield_by Caroline Bell.jpegchosen by committee. Today in an interview with Monday’s presiding officer, Zoe Bloomfield, she shared her thoughts and feelings on all things CONA 

The first thing Zoe shared was what it meant, specifically to her, to act as a presiding officer for the conference. “Being someone that can facilitate something so the delegates enjoy it to the umpteenth degree,” she said. Back in her New Jersey state programs Zoe was very active, “it was the thing [she] spent too much time on, probably more than homework,” she said recounting the four years she’d spent in both Youth and Government and model legislative conference. It was clear to see that both were near and dear to her heart. She came back to The Mountain this year because “this is the epitome of everything [she] loves about the program… [conference] was a place with such varied opinions and yet there was so much comfort so much empowerment.”  

The conference in general means a lot to Zoe and it showed in her passion as she spoke about the program. Beyond the program, Zoe is working on a dual degree in which she will spend two years in France at La Science Po, and then two years in America at UC Berkeley. Ultimately, her hard work will culminate in a bachelor’s degree from both universities. Zoe seems very excited to work on the program this year, and it’s that excitement that makes it clear to see that this year’s conference will be well looked after by all of our presiding officers.

 

 

Faith is an important aspect of the YMCA. Many delegates on The Mountain hold religion high in their lives.

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Delegates sing “My God is an Awesome God.” PHOTO by Abbie Skladan, NC

A Sunday worship service led off the 2018 Conference on National Affairs. Although optional, many delegates choose to attend and support the speakers from their home states. Missouri’s Maggie Hannick shared an opening testimony for the Call to Worship. Her lighthearted yet thought provoking testimony set the perfect mood for the service. Alex Giampino (Model United Nations); Bayli Moran (Florida), Adeleke Goring (Kentucky), Jacob Grant (Kentucky) and Annalyn St. Ledger (New Jersey) played ukulele and sang “Our God is an Awesome God.” Every delegate in the room sat in awe of the talented group; delegates could feel the love radiating off of the audience as they began to sing along with the group.

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Alabama’s Addison Smith delivers a reading during the service. PHOTO by Abbie Skladan, NC

Samantha Condrick (Pennsylvania), Kasey Roberts (Pennsylvania), and Addison Smith (Alabama) separately gave their devotionals; some talked about love and acceptance and others discussed their takes on Bible verses. During the separate devotionals, every delegate in the room was tuned in; all attention was on the speaker. After Addison completed his testimony, another group of singers sang another hymn about God’s beauty and grace.

Later, Aayush Dave (Texas) gave a testimony about looking beyond individual beliefs and recognizing that we each have something significant to contribute to this experience: “No matter who you are or what background you come from, we can find something beautiful in every person, experience, and place we go.” Following his inspiring speech, Aayush offered up time for sharing. Sam Lowry (Michigan) reminded the audience to “be grateful for both the good times and hard times,” by having faith. Jackson Cromer (Kentucky) spoke of using faith as a guiding light in times of struggle, specifically in his own experiences with mental health. He gave a piece of advice that he had received from his pastor back home: “Real peace is not saying my life is okay, it’s recognizing that you might be in a terrible place, but in the end, He’s got this.” Sharif Long (Texas) delivered an inspiring closing statement to the service.

By Caroline Bell, NC

 

On The Mountain, you find delegates of every background, all with a different story to tell. Sharing our stories can often help uplift or inspire another student which is why it is so important that we highlight the outstanding when we see it.

Jariah Cole (TX State 2018 House Speaker) with Speaker of Texas House of Representatives

2018 Texas Youth Speaker of the House Jariah Cole poses with her adult counterpart, Texas Speaker Joe Straus on the podium in the Texas House of Representatives. PHOTO contributed

Jariah Cole, a returning delegate from Texas Youth and Government, has had to overcome hardships to get to where she is today. In her second year on The Mountain, she has already served as a Proposal Sharing Group leader. Back home, she has served a multitude of roles including president of her own YAG club. At this year’s state program, she served as Speaker of the House. It is clear watching from a distance that Jariah is a leader.

“Life is filled with mistakes,” Jariah said. “When I was a sophomore at the state conference, I presided as a chair for a committee. Time was already an issue and I accidentally passed a motion that didn’t allow the remaining delegates to present their bills.”

While some obstacles have turned into learning and teaching moments in YAG, Jariah has also overcome her own personal hardships.

“When I was 14, my dad passed away, which was really hard for my family, because he was very involved and always in my life,” Jariah said.

Jariah said everything she has had to overcome gives her a purpose for her work as a leader.

“These hardships make me a great leader, because I can use my story to inspire others,” Jariah said. “I use my past to represent how relentless one should be in their life.”

There are many ways people display leadership and being a good leader means something different to everyone. Jariah has shown leadership, not only in YAG, but at her school where she is serving as senior class president and also is a part of a mentorship program.

“Being a good leader is being a mentor, selfless, relentless and self aware,” Jariah said. “I make it a goal to [train] a leader while I lead. I also make an effort to tend to everyone’s needs in the group. Everyone should feel needed and important.”

Jariah shared that to her, YAG is a family, and CONA is an extended part of that. In her final year of high school, there is much to look forward to but Jariah does not plan to leave Youth and Government behind.

“After high school, I plan to attend an out-of-state university to pursue accounting or business management,” Jariah said. “For YAG, I plan to train my younger peers so that the program can grow and stay healthy. I also want to give back after I graduate. I will come back to volunteer and just help out to the program that means so much to me.”

By Gloria Ogunlade, TX

IT’S ALMOST TIME TO CELEBRATE THE 4TH OF JULY!!!!!

America’s birthday is just three days away.  And the Fourth of July just happens to fall on Wednesday — which is a FREE activity day.  And — lucky for you — Blue Ridge Assembly has a host of activities you can participate in.  It will be a much-needed
break from session, meetings, and interviews.  Don’t worry — we here at the
Blue Ridge Journal have the 4-1-1 on your guide to FUN on Wednesday!  Take a look at the following options:

OPTION 1: BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN CLIMB

Want to see the most incredible and breathtaking views of this part of North Carolina? Then Climb the Blue Ridge Mountain. There will be two hikes that take place; these are the same hike but will be at different times. There are 100 slots with a first-come-first-serve availability.  

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Before signing up, take into account that these hikes are strenuous and often steep (approximately 1 mile).

RESTRICTIONS:

Restrictions do exist for these hikes: You cannot go if:

  • you have asthma
  • are allergic to bee stings
  • are not wearing the appropriate clothing (closed-toed shoes)
  • are not prepared for the hike (water bottle).

OPTION 2: BILTMORE ESTATES

Delegates can take a Trip to The Biltmore, America’s largest residence!  This trip has 75 slots available.  Experience George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate, nestled in the mountains of Asheville, N.C.  

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

According to trip coordinator Orville Lundquist: “It’s a great tour! People go on that trip and rave about it.”

Delegates should be aware that tickets for the tour will be approximately $20.

The announcement for the signup time for both the hike and the trip to the Biltmore will occur at lunch Monday.

OPTION 3: THE POOL

Dive into fun at The Pool will be open all afternoon to delegates. The pool offers a good break to weary bodies and hard-worked calves. This gives options to compete in a belly flop contest or just swim. The belly flop contest will take place at 2 p.m.  And you don’t even need to sign up for the contest — just show up and enjoy the fun.

Pool

OPTION 4: OPEN SPORTS

Itching for some of your back-home sports? Delegates have the option for Open Sports during the afternoon. All of the sports equipment can be found in the Conference Service Office. Some of the sports that you can participate in include basketball, tennis and ultimate Frisbee.  

OPTION 5: MOVIES

You can also spend this time chilling watching some Movies! This can be a good option for the delegates that do not want to spend their time outside. Movies will be in Eureka Hall and the Blue Ridge Center.

OPTION 6: FREE TIME

If none of these options are appealing, this does not mean that there is nothing to do. Whether it is in their room, on the porch, or walking around, delegates are given this time to have free time of their choice.

By Delilah Rose, WI