This past July I had the amazing opportunity to attend FFA Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) (I was there Week 6, July 19th-24th). held in Washington D.C. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the conference, It’s a five day conference where you go sight seeing, have large group sessions, community group sessions, eye opening activities, make memories, and make lifelong friends. I had no idea what was in store for me as a small town Wisconsin kid. As five other girls from my chapter and I got off the plane in D.C. we all looked each other a little overwhelmed, knowing our adventure had just begun. The first day of the conference we had the opening session, met our community groups, and our roommates. Now at most FFA events you room with people from your own chapter, not at WLC. My room had four girls, Laci from Texas, Addie from Ohio, Madi from Texas, and myself from Wisconsin. We were a clash of accents let me tell you. We were in the community group ‘We the People’, our facilitator was Brittaney (All of Britts groups get lit if you're wondering) from Colorado, and there was 28 FFA members (29 including Britt) total from all across the U.S. in our group. These beautiful people have since become some of my best friends. In our five short days together we laughed, cried, told personal, funny, weird, farm, school, everything you could think of stories. I didn’t know that strangers on Tuesday could be best friends by Saturday. WLC is magic that way.
Wednesday we went to Arlington National Cemetery and saw the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then Wednesday night we got on a coach bus and we went on a night tour of the monuments, memorials, all the “tourist” sights. This is where Max and Austin come in. We were supposed to stay in groups of three, they got off the bus and I asked Max how many they had and he said it was just them two and the rest is history. They would end up becoming my “Christmas tree and Dairy farmer x2” squad for the remainder of the trip. Thursday we visited the Capitol, then had large and community group sessions. My community group had the best real talk discussions, and they were amazing.
Friday(July 22nd) was a very special day for me, it was my 17th birthday! We went to the Newseum, and I got to celebrate my birthday with my kind of people, FFA members! Plus I took some pretty bomb birthday selfies with my community group. Saturday (the last day) flew by and we had free time in D.C., then we had our last sessions, then we had to say our goodbyes.
Saying goodbye to those 28 people were some of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever said. 28 different personalities, 28 different life stories, 28 people who sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, in Spanish just because. 28 different beautiful smiles, 28 people who accepted me for well, me. I know I’m not the only one who felt this way. We the People Week 6 group chat is still going strong! We share everything from girl/boy problems, to random stories, to one of us putting us in their chapter recruitment video!
That’s my WLC story, and how I made 28 best friends in five days.
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-Arora Westenberg, Wisconsin Representative and lover of all things dairy.