People threatening to blow up Serbia, dancing to A Whole New World, and trying to get an army of penguins…sound like fun? LeadAmerica is a 10-day summer camp for leaders of tomorrow’s generation. It opens minds for middle school and high school students and, frankly, changes their lives. And, as a bonus, high school students receive two college credits.
This is my second summer at LeadAmerica. Last year, I did the Intelligence, Defense, and National Security conference based in Washington D.C. As in every conference, we have a simulation. Our simulation last year was North Korea threatening to attack us (Hmm…) and terrorists got a hold of some smallpox samples and released them in Chicago O’Hare airport.
I was given the position of United Kingdom in the United Nations Group. We were lectured by many great minds from people who work at the CIA to Jack Pinnix – a mastermind who taught us how to make a nuclear bomb. We visited famous sites in D.C. such as a tour of the Pentagon and The Annapolis Navy Academy. We even went to Capitol Hill and got appointments with senators and house representatives. I know a person who actually met Hilary Clinton and although I’m a huge republican, that is still pretty cool.
I loved LeadAmerica so much that I (A.K.A. my parents) paid another three grand to send me this year. I went to the Global Summit conference. Like the other conference did, this conference began in Washington D.C.; however, half way though the session we took a bus up to New York City. This simulation was rather different.
I’m sure everyone remembers the 1999 Kosovo crisis. Serbia (Now Yugoslavia) and Albanians were having some ethnic tensions. As a result, a mass genocide started. We were faced with the struggle of deciding how to stop the genocide, what to do with hundreds upon thousands of refugees, and whether or not Kosovo should gain independence from Serbia. Along the way, we were faced with several problems: Booby-trapped houses, U.S. bombing the Chinese embassy (oops!), and dealing with the Immigration department who wanted bring two million Kosovars into the United States (Homeland Security loved that idea…).
In the beginning, my group was given the US AID. I was extremely bummed out. Other groups were given the Department of Defense, Intelligence Agency, Senate … and I didn’t know what US AID even did.
The US AID is a Non-Governmental Organization who gives aid and helps repair infrastructure of other countries. It was so cool being the US AID because our group alone got to go to the US AID headquarters and talk to them. All the other groups were jealous because they got stuck having a really boring lecture by a guy who “didn’t know anything” and “only asked where you were from and then quickly changed the subject.” I came to love being US AID.
When we went up to New York, we switched roles. Instead of looking at the Kosovo crisis through the eyes of the United States, we began to look at it through the international eyes. My group got the U.K. and I was excited to be a country with the veto power. However, I was the U.K. in my first conference. Maybe it gave me an advantage. I would have preferred to be China, as they have a veto and it’s fun to mess with the rest of the U.N.
We went to places such as the United Nations and Wall Street. We did have some lectures, some obviously better than others. We did a lot more lectures this year. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I am now in the High School group. Overall, the lectures were interesting. I learned a lot from them – like the way the United Nations functions and international affairs.
In all seriousness, LeadAmerica changed my life for the better. My first year, I was a little unsure if this is what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t really a “leader.” I was just a normal 13-year-old girl trying to pass high school. LeadAmerica taught me to develop my own opinions and support them. They gave me self-confidence. I know, I know, I sound really cheesy, but it’s true. LeadAmerica opened my eyes to career paths I never considered and introduced me to people with views that are worthy listening to.
The best thing about LeadAmerica is the people you meet. You all share one thing in common – the characteristics of leadership. I lost touch with the people from my IDN conference around December, six months after the conference. While at my conference this year, I actually ran into my friend from IDN. I wished I stayed in touch with him and I plan to e-mail him soon to see how his conference went. I made a lot of friends from around the country. Kansas, Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey…even someone from Mexico. These people are the leaders of the future and I can say I knew them first.
So, I’ve told you that I’ve done all these lectures and learned all about the Balkan region. Sound like school? Yes, it is exactly like school. No, I’m totally kidding. I do have lectures and boring stuff like that. But, hello, they are giving me two colleges credits. I had to do some form of a lecture but in between the lectures, we did fun things. We goofed off and threatened to bomb Serbia as a joke. We had a talent show. We had two boys in our group dancing to the song "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. We joked about how the staff kept saying we are the future leaders of America, but we can’t lead ourselves across the street. We had fun.
I just finished my freshman year in High School. No offense, but people at my school are idiots. I think they think it’s “cool” to be a democrat. They claim they are big democrats. So, I ask them their position on the war. They respond by asking, “Uh…we went to war?” At LeadAmerica, it’s so different. Everyone has an opinion on politics. Although, most peoples’ opinions differ widely from mine, it was an awesome experience being with young people who cared about current events.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about those penguins…