By Kyle Jillson | June 27 2013 17:43

NRA Y.E.S. takes on NRA School Shield program, NSA surveillance and more at Hillsdale College in Washington D.C.

National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit at Hillsdale College in Washington DC

Fairfax, Virginia - Waking up bright and early Wednesday morning, the Youth Education Summit loaded into their bus for their first adventure in Washington D.C. This was the first trip to our nation's capital for many of the students and they gazed at the monuments as the bus drove into the heart of the city.

National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit at Hillsdale College in Washington DC

Any D.C.-area native will tell you that you haven't experienced the city until you've sat in its notorious traffic. After getting a healthy dose among the morning commuters, the Y.E.S. students disembarked to find themselves at Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship. Located in Southern Michigan, Hillsdale College launched the D.C. center in 2008 as extension of their historic commitment to liberal arts education and to civil and religious liberty.

The day would begin with an academic focus as Y.E.S. took a tour of the center - constructed out of two row houses - and participated in debates on key issues in today's political climate. The day would see four debates, each having a consenting and dissenting side for a total of eight teams. The topics were:

  • The school shield program will benefit schools
  • Physician assisted suicide should be legal
  • Government has right to impose diet restrictions
  • Citizens' privacy take precedence over security

National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit at Hillsdale College in Washington DC

These topics weren't sprung on the students, though.

"We were emailed our topics about two weeks ago so we would have plenty of time to prepare," Jay Gilbertson from McAlester, Oklahoma told me. "The NRA also told us who was on the debate team so we could coordinate our presentation through email."

National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit at Hillsdale College in Washington DC

Debates ran one at a time with the remaining six groups as the audience. Both sides were given equal time to present their arguments and offer rebuttals. Some teams were a little more coherent than others, but everyone presented impassioned speeches to advocate their side.

Once the debate had concluded, the Y.E.S. chaperones deliberated before announcing a winner.

National Rifle Association Youth Education Summit at Hillsdale College in Washington DC

"I'd never debated officially before this, but I'm used to persuasive speech from school and when I do choir projects," Alexandra Knight of Burlington, Wisconsin said. "This was fun to work on and present as a group, but I'm really excited to give my individual speech."

This wasn't the only presentation the students would make during Y.E.S. In addition to the debates, attendees are required to give a speech on a topic of their choosing. There is no set event for all 47 students to deliver their speeches, however. Rather, they are fit in throughout the week a couple at a time - during bus rides, before tours, etc. Together with the debates and a student's overall attitude throughout Y.E.S., the speeches help determine who will be awarded college scholarships at the summit's conclusion.

With the debates finished but the day far from over, Y.E.S. finished out the day sightseeing at the National Archives and several of the monuments on the National Mall. Everyone, adults and students alike, was exhausted once they returned to the hotel.

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