From Nov. 18 to 23 of this year, I attended the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) on Law, a five-day conference in Washington, D.C.
I received information on this program last summer, and thought it would be a fun and valuable opportunity to see if the legal profession is something I would be interested in pursuing in the future. However as the 18th of November loomed closer and closer, a knot formed in my stomach every time I thought of the four days of school I would be missing. I knew that the make-up homework in addition to college apps would be no fun. But I couldn’t back out — how could I give up my first visit to the Capitol?
I had little prior knowledge of the program. I arrived at our hotel located outside of D.C. in Virginia to find 180 students aged 15 to 18 from almost every state in the country, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. I encountered authentic southern gentlemen, sun-spoiled Californians and east-coast kids that giggled at my flannel shirt and Birkenstocks.
I quickly began to realize that this experience was very similar to that of Girls State, the mock government program I attended last June. While there were many similarities, I was able to extract valuable information on a career in law and its many branches. We learned about the law profession in a variety of ways: we visited law school, saw a real trial, listened to speakers and conducted mock simulations.
Of course, an enormous component of this trip was all the sights there were to see! I can now say that I have eaten lunch at the Library of Congress, stood where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and seen Dorothy’s red-sequined shoes from “The Wizard of Oz.”
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the most ethnically diverse activity I have ever participated in. Every ethnicity was largely represented, which I found refreshing. Lets face it, north Seattle suburbs are pretty homogeneous. Diversity is a reoccurring theme through my endless supplement questions for my college applications, and participating in such a diverse conference has made me embrace it even more.
As I write this, I am still making up for the missed school work; however it was completely worth it. I am so glad I am able to participate in activities before college where such opportunities may not be as readily available. The forum did help me with deciding on a future career. I do not want to be a lawyer. It is an intriguing career, however, I don’t think it is for me. If anything, it has reinforced my desire to enter politics later in life. It just so happens that a large portion of politicians are former lawyers. Who knows, perhaps I will study law, but enter a different career.
Elsa Watland is an Inglemoor High senior.