The National Rifle Association's Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) was such an influential week for me. It taught me more about discipline, respect and pride than I ever would have known if I hadn't attended the program. I learned just how different—and similar—people from other states can be in terms of beliefs and values.
Discipline can be defined as an activity or experience that provides mental or physical training. The Youth Education Summit experience certainly incorporated that mental training, as all of us participants were trying to soak up as much information as we possibly could. Whether it was shooting guns at the NRA Range, or the icebreakers to get to know each other on the first day, we were always learning and doing as instructed. We learned to listen to our superiors because they had a strict schedule with no room to waste time. In this way, I believe we all learned discipline.
Respect—due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others—was displayed differently depending on where each student was from. My good ‘ole southern respect was saying "yes sir," "no sir," "yes ma'am," or "no ma'am." The students from the north didn't seem to say all that; they just didn't raise their voice or talk back. Two common phrases everybody said—which also made me very proud of our nation—were "please" and "thank you." Many chaperones noted that we were among the most respectful and polite students they have had in a long time. Throughout the week, we all learned that respect and manners will go a long way in our futures.
Pride can be described as a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired. I believe my fellow participants and I all felt pride from the day we received news of our acceptance in Y.E.S., and we will carry that pride throughout our lives. We were proud when we received our acceptance letters because we all worked very hard trying to perfect our applications, and we all worried for countless hours if we would be accepted. During Y.E.S. week, we also strengthened our pride for our wonderful country by admiring all of the monuments, memorials and museums we visited around the nation’s capital.
I had the opportunity to meet unique, fun and—what I found most surprising—similar, students my age from all over the country. With 46 people from 35 different states including Alaska and Hawaii, there was a noticeable cultural difference among us all. The first thing everyone noticed was accents; no two were alike. Then everyone noticed the way people carried themselves and how they acted and behaved; people from New York and California are not like those from Texas and Arkansas. But, setting aside our differences, we all agreed on one topic—the Second Amendment. We all loved guns, and we all spoke out about them. We were all unique but united in our shared convictions.
Earlier this year, I got the call that I was awarded the top Y.E.S. Grand Scholarship for my year. To be considered for the Grand Scholarship, students must demonstrate how they are sharing NRA programs, awareness and support in their communities, and what they are doing to raise awareness for the Youth Education Summit. My contributions included speaking at every Friends of NRA banquet in Arkansas, as well as presenting the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program to local elementary school students and writing for the NRA Blog.
I received a $10,000 scholarship for my work spreading the word of the NRA and the Y.E.S program. This scholarship is helping me attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., where I will be in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. I hope to graduate in 2022 with a degree in Business Management so I can fulfill my plan of taking over my father’s roofing company. To me, this scholarship means that the NRA believes in me and wants me to succeed so much that they were willing to invest a large amount of money into my future.
This article does not explain everything the Youth Education Summit and the NRA have done for me. Frankly, I don't think I can ever explain what Y.E.S. did. My week in Washington, DC, was amazing, and I would do it a thousand times over. This whole experience has definitely been life-changing.
The NRA is part of who I am. I was raised in it, and plan to raise my kids in it.
In the year following his participation in the 2017 Youth Education Summit, Alex dedicated his time to sharing about the Y.E.S. program and his experience. He attended 11 Friends of NRA events, educating attendees about Y.E.S.—a program their donations help to support—and encouraged them to share the program with high schoolers they know. He also personally thanked the Arkansas Friends of NRA volunteers for their hard work and dedication in supporting the next generation of Second Amendment supporters. Additionally, Alex presented the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program to 750 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and supplied information to other schools show showed interest in the program. Alex has also been feature in three NRA articles about his work on behalf of Y.E.S., Friends of NRA, and the NRA.
Want to have your own life-changing Y.E.S. experience and see how you can impact the future of the Second Amendment and other American freedoms and traditions? Apply now for the 2019 program - applications are due Jan. 25. Visit the application page for more details. The two Y.E.S. 2019 sessions will take place July 8-14 and July 22-28.