26th Annual Leadership Conference – I’m In!
This July, we had the opportunity to travel down to Bloomington, Indiana to attend a worldwide Leadership Conference. Of the attendees, there were 53 high schoolstudents, five ambassadors, seven college students, six volunteers, two advisory board members, one intern and four staff members.
The weekend was very busy to say the least. We kicked off with the 26th annual opening ceremony, where we had the pleasure of listening to speakers such as Anthony K. Shriver, Daniel Noltemeyer, Lauren Potter and David Quilleon. We also got a real treat hearing Lisa Smith and Marlana VanHoose perform and inspire others on how they overcame their disabilities.
The rest of the weekend consisted of both high school and college students learning in various breakout program sessions. Students had the opportunity to choose their breakout sessions in order to maximize their interests. Our amazing volunteers worked hard by helping students from all over the world create speeches. Each speech was read aloud and 6 students were chosen to speak in front of everyone at our closing ceremony. This means speaking in front of over 2,000 people! Our volunteers must be great helpers because two of our volunteers students were chosen to read their speeches at the closing ceremony. On Saturday night, students completed the Friendship Walk, hung out and danced at the post party, and at the end of the night, the students had their choice of watching Where Hope Grows or singing karaoke.
Sunday night, we topped off the weekend with the closing ceremony and a Candyland themed dance! Two of our ambassadors, Sam Dess and Shannon Reichert, were chosen to sing on stage with Lisa Smith, Marlana VanHoose and a few students from other states. We could not have been more proud of them! As we headed out early Monday morning, with tired eyes and many memories, we said goodbye to the 26th Annual Leadership Conference.
I have attended LC as a student, a volunteer and now as an intern. Each experience has been quite different, but each one just as fulfilling and rewarding as the others. Even though I bring home many great memories from this experience, there is always one moment that really stands out where I could look down and see goosebumps. My moment this year was when I was standing backstage watching our two ambassadors, Sam and Shannon, singing to We Are the World. I remember looking around seeing the stage crew, staff members and security guards tearing up. The goosebumps came and I knew that was my moment this LC trip. After speaking to students later that night at the dance, I realized those moments happen all the time at LC and thats why Best Buddies is such a great organization. The amount of work put into these three days are all made worth it for those moments. I feel privileged to have had the experience I did and to be the Best Buddies Intern this summer. The Best Buddies Leadership Conference is truly a fun, hectic and rewarding experience – one that I know I will never forget.