A Trip to the YDA College Leadership Academy

As I reflect on my time in Washington DC, attending the YDA College Leadership Academy, I have come to contemplate a few things. First, when I was 7. I remember visiting the Washington monument and my brother and I playing in the National Mall, and then proceeding to break a massive branch off of a immaculate cherry tree; my mom picking us up and running from the park officers. Second, the week I spent at the College Leadership Academy. Both memories will stay with me, perhaps for the rest of my life.

group photoMy CLA colleagues were as warm and friendly as my brothers and sisters in Washington State. I was greeted with a familiar camaraderie and internal debate, that kept up the entire trip. We got an inside look at how to run an effective campaign, visited NARAL’s national headquarters, walked the Democratic National Headquarters, and lobbied and met various members of congress. Each presenter and guest speaker was fantastic. Expert in their field, but close enough to our age where we could ask specifics pertaining to the ultimate twenty-something question “What the hell do I do with my life?”

sandersOne of the highlights of my trip was the opportunity to hear and speak to Senator Bernie Sanders–the root of those pesky internal debates. Meeting him, and then proceeding to walk the National mall at midnight (staying away from cherry trees) is an experience that will stay with me my entire life. However, after some reflection and thought, I can confidently say that when when I think of my week in spent in DC, meeting the Senator is a mere blip–a surface experience. What stands out the most is the policy debates over burgers, regional insights given in bars, and discussions around social movements in restaurants frequented by those on the hill.

While each guest speaker had different answers to different specific questions surrounding the ubiquitous “What the hell do I do with my life?” question, what I have come to understand, is that each person I met, fellow students, guest speakers, congressional aides, et cetera, all of them had a passion for progressive action. My answer to the broad question at hand, was forged on this trip and it is simply: follow your passion. Maybe that’s cliché, but for a full week I got to live and breathe progressive politics, explore our capitol, and make new impassioned friends–I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I am so appreciative for this experience, particularly to the amazing Louis Elrod, who facilitated the trip from start to finish–thank you.