In June 2011, I had the privilege of representing my school and the state of Pennsylvania at the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment at George Mason University. During this conference, I learned about many aspects of environmental science, from animal welfare to the politics of environmental movements. I was able to listen to the wise words of many guest speakers and participate in exciting yet informative activities each day. On the first full day of the conference, my fellow delegates and I went to the National Zoo. In addition to seeing a wide variety of beautiful animals, we were able to learn about how all species are protected and conserved. The next day, we took a tour of the National’s Baseball Park and learned about the park’s numerous efforts to protect the planet. Some of the stadium’s “green” features include biodegradable cups made from corn and potatoes, roofs that double as gardens, and nearby metro stations and bicycle valets to encourage baseball fans to use more environmentally friendly methods of transportation.
We then took a break from environmental science and visited Capitol Hill for a day. While there, I toured the Capitol and the Air and Space Museum. I was also able to go sightseeing in Washington, D.C. with my fellow delegates during a moonlit monument tour. We were able to visit the White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial, all of which were awe-inspiring. On the following day, we went to the National Geographic Center to learn how the organization raises public awareness of the beauty of nature. I especially enjoyed learning about “Critter Cams,” which are cameras that are attached to the backs of animals so that scientists can observe how they behave in the wild. Unfortunately, that was the last full day of the summit, and after a closing address the next morning, it was time for me to go home. I had so much fun at the conference that I had no desire to leave at its conclusion.
I felt honored to be chosen as one of only 125 students from the entire United States to attend the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment. This conference furthered my interest in the environment and has inspired me to pursue biology and environmental science in college. My trip to Washington, D.C. also enabled me to make new friendships with the other delegates. Everyone there was so unique, and I enjoyed learning how their lives compared to and differed from mine. I would not have changed a single aspect of this experience because all my expectations were exceeded and I had the time of my life. My trip changed me forever by giving me a more profound interest in the environment and by helping me gain the confidence necessary to be a better leader and advocate of my interests. Due to the lasting knowledge, memories, and friendships I have acquired, the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment is a trip that I will always cherish and never forget.
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