By Nathan Switzer, Outstanding Achievement Youth Award winner and “Class of 2010” Y.E.S. participant
If you are currently a sophomore or junior in high school, have I got a deal for you to consider! If you are younger, read it anyway and make plans to participate in the future. During the summer of 2010, Friends of NRA paid my way to Washington, D.C., so that I could participate with 44 other high school sophomores and juniors from around the country in NRA’s Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.). Where else do you start an NRA Summit but at the NRA headquarters? We met the department heads and heard about their projects and activities. I know many people who work at NRA, but there were whole departments that I did not even know existed. Your NRA organization is huge, and they are all working for you. We also toured the fascinating National Firearms Museum with one of its curators, who is as passionate about his work as many of you are about Facebook and texting. And this is no dusty old museum. It has a world-class collection of amazing firearms and the stories behind them. Currently they are hosting a temporary exhibit called “Hollywood Guns.” If you have seen a gun in a movie, it is most likely on display. They even have the Colt MK IV used in Machete, a movie that has not even hit theaters as I write this article. After the museum tour, we got to shoot several different modern sporting rifles at the NRA range. We participated in a mock Friends of NRA lunch that was totally fun. I got some amazing things in that auction. Unbelievably, all that happened on Day One.
Our second day started with debates. But do not let that scare you. I had never seen a debate before, but I was given my topic and teammates a month early, so I had plenty of time to learn how debates really work and prepare my case. Even though my team drew the side of the debate I did not personally agree with, our team still won because we did our homework well! Our group toured the Pentagon, the Archives, and the many memorials of D.C. The memorials alone make a trip to D.C. worth it. Even if you have seen them before as I had, NRA arranged for wonderful tour guides who sparked our imagination and interest. The pace made us tired, but not so tired that some of us could not continue debating various issues during the bus rides, meals and spare moments. In theory, we got six hours of sleep that night, but not my room.
The next day we got to meet a very young, very conservative Congressman, Duncan Hunter from California. There went my misconception shattered by reality. Previously I did not believe that California had enough conservatives to elect such a great congressional representative, but I was wrong and totally amazed as I listened to him talk with us. He challenged us, and I got excited about our future and our role as young people in that future. We toured the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Newseum. The night was finished up with laser tag. Imagine 45 kids plus staff going full bore.
If we had not gotten enough exercise with laser tag the night before, our Drill Sergeants with Freedom Alliance Military Leadership Academy gave us our fill the next morning. They ran a simulated boot camp physical training exercise in conjunction with our tour of the Marine base and the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It was so authentic that we even ate MREs for dinner while at Iwo Jima Memorial. As is usual, the NRA provided us with nothing but the best. While at Iwo Jima Memorial, we did not have just any Marine talking to us. NRA arranged for retired Marine Sgt. L. Wesley Plummer, a veteran from the first wave onto Iwo Jima, to talk with the Y.E.S. participants. Very few-first wave Marines even made it off the island alive. Sgt. Plummer fought at the battle for Iwo Jima its entire 36-day length, even after being injured in combat when shrapnel hit his face. What an honor to have met and heard a man who was there tell us his stories. Since I am an avid history buff, this was probably the highlight for me.
Our last day in Washington D.C. began at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We also toured the American History Museum. The week was capped off with an Awards Banquet and $10,000 worth of scholarships given out to participants.
So if you want to stretch your knowledge, allow any misconceptions to be realigned with truth, and meet some of the most amazing peers from around the nation while interacting with some of the movers and shakers of our culture both past and present, then Y.E.S. is for you!
Deadline for applications is February 14, 2011. For additional information on the 2011 Youth Education Summit and how to apply, please visit www.friendsofnra.org/yes, or call 1 (800) 672-3888, ext. 1342.