STAND students attend first National Leadership Forum in Washington DC

Published 5:46 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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By Bill Spitzer

Twelve students recently returned from our nation’s Capitol where they attended a five-day Leadership Forum that was held Jan. 28-Feb. 2.

The conference, sponsored by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), featured weeklong training with several keynote speakers including General Barrye L Price, the president and CEO of CADCA. In addition to the keynote speakers, students had the opportunity to participate in several workshops as well as youth team building activities.

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The trip was made possible because of a five-year Drug-Free Communities grant. Students who took part in the leadership forum were selected for their involvement with Students Taking A New Direction (STAND), a student led organization focused on making health and responsible decisions, and by writing an essay about how they would use the new skills they learned during the trainings when they returned to Austin. 

STAND students recently took part in National Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. Photo provided

STAND has groups at Pacelli, Austin High School and Ellis Middle School.

This was an exciting opportunity for young people to learn leadership skills. These students worked hard during the forum and looked forward to sharing what they learned with fellow students.

“I learned so much,” said Ature Puro, a sophomore at AHS who has been a part of STAND for several years. “It was an amazing experience.”

“Ature had such a great experience at the forum that she took the initiative of researching how she could become a youth trainer at the forum next year,” said Lea Oelfke, STAND Advisor.

Over 400 students from across the United States participated in the forum, which included a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with their US Representatives. Congressman Bran Finstad visited with students at the Capitol, listening to concerns and sharing opportunities. Meeting with their congressman was a moment to remember for the students as many do not have an opportunity to be heard by legislators. Students also had a chance to explore Washington DC learning about the history of our country.

These history expeditions occurred between the conference training sessions creating a very busy schedule for students. These expeditions were sponsored by local residents who encouraged students to take advantage of the opportunities offered in Washington DC.

Students returned to Austin exhausted but committed to sharing their new experiences and information they learned at the forum. The overall goal was to reveal our emerging youth leaders and provide them with tools to be successful.