Washington Leadership Conference Draws FFA Members From 45 States

Washington Leadership Conference draws FFA members from 45 states

If you like to help others and have a knack for leadership, listen up. The National FFA Organization’s annual Washington Leadership Conference is coming up  in June and July, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to explore our nation’s capital, make friends from across the country and serve others.

“Participants should expect a conference unlike anything they have ever experienced – a conference that will challenge their thoughts, words and actions and entice them to grow into a better person, leader and servant,” says Whitney Danker, education specialist for the National FFA Organization.

During the five-day conference, participants visit the U.S. Capitol, tour the American History Museum, observe the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, tour national monuments, and spend the final Saturday of the conference serving the D.C. community.

“We have students out of the hotel as much as possible. The best classroom is Washington, D.C., itself,” Danker says. “It is saturated with learning moments.”

The 2011 Washington Leadership Conference had 2,137 student participants and 263 advisors from 45 states. Participants can select which of the seven weeks they wish to participate in, so there is flexibility for busy summer schedules. The curriculum for WLC changes every five years, but the focus is always on premier leadership.

“The new WLC curriculum will be built on four pillars: self-awareness, diversity, advocacy and service,” Danker explains. “WLC isn’t just a conference, and it isn’t just a tour of Washington, D.C. Participants will learn what servant leadership is all about by diving into our nation’s history and exploring the lives of our founding fathers.”

In 2012, WLC will be moving to one hotel, as opposed to the former two, so the entire conference will take place under one roof.

“It will be better for everyone involved, and we’re very excited,” Danker says. “The hotel has a big ballroom for sessions, and everyone staying at the hotel will be part of WLC.”

A highlight of the week is always the WLC service day. In 2011, WLC participants contributed more than $85,000 worth of volunteer labor to the D.C. metropolitan area. In terms of food, participants packed, sorted or distributed more than 29.5 tons of produce and shipped more than 100,000 meals to overseas orphanages in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Other service projects included Habitat for Humanity, working at animal shelters, pulling weeds in community gardens and performing maintenance tasks at homeless shelters.

At the end of the conference, participants will have created a Living to Serve plan to put into action in their own community upon returning home.

“They should come prepared to brainstorm ways to impact their community and their chapters,” Danker says, “and they will leave with a detailed plan on how to carry out their service plans.”

– Jessica Mozo