From a young age I was always taught that learning about something in school, and experiencing it for yourself first hand are two entirely different things. Being raised by two teachers, I grew up eager to learn, and I soaked up knowledge about the world around me with enthusiasm. My sophomore year I was invited to attend a National Conference for students interested in government and politics, which turned out to be one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life. The Conference on National Affairs, or CONA, is an annual convention run by the YMCA’s Youth in Government (YIG) program. Delegates are chosen at state conferences to be mock legislators at the Blue Ridge Assembly Hall in North Carolina. Upon my arrival…show more content… I said that I felt like a caterpillar waiting to awake as a butterfly. Coming up the mountain I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there, or that I was anything special. My passion and interest for government were undoubtedly strong, but the students that surrounded me were intimidating, to say the least.
Six hundred of them, from all corners of America, most with several years over me on the mountain, were radiating confidence, knowledge, and familiarity with every article of the constitution. They congregated in front of the living hall, old friends reuniting and new ones being made. I listened to them reminisce about their past adventures and how they found the Blue Ridge Spirit, though there never seemed to be an accurate explanation of what that meant. I was skeptical of ever finding it for myself. The Blue Ridge Spirit didn’t hit me the way that I expected it to. I imagined something sudden and powerful, like being struck by lightning, or hit by a train, or something of a magnitude even greater than that. I wouldn’t say that it even hit me at all. It grew slowly around me and through me, until, without me even realizing it, I was completely immersed in