By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN When Eleanor “Ellie” Malone was nominated by her English teacher, Todd Rogers of Holy Trinity Catholic School in Winsted, to spend six days in Washington, DC learning about leadership, she didn’t let the opportunity pass her by.
“It was a phenomenal experience very educational,” Ellie commented after she returned the end of June.
Ellie, daughter of Jason and Jennifer Malone of Lester Prairie, was one of 273 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders from all over the US to attend the 2017 Junior National Young Leaders Conference.
Although she’s been to Washington, DC once before with family, this was her first time traveling there alone.
“I wasn’t as homesick as I thought I would be,” said Ellie, who will be an eighth-grader at Holy Trinity this fall.
“I think it was such a good age and time for Ellie to go,” Jennifer said. Her advice to other parents whose children are nominated in the future is to “go for it.”
The Malone family is familiar with the program’s benefits, since Jason participated in it years ago.
Although the cost for Ellie to attend was $2,495, plus airfare, Jennifer said it was “so worth it.” To help with the cost, Ellie has been raising money on a GoFundMe site. (To contribute, CLICK HERE)
During the conference, participants were divided into focus groups of 15 to 20 people. The week then consisted of various teambuilding exercises, mock debates, and an election simulation.
For one activity, Ellie’s group was directed to choose a topic and convince others to support their cause.
“Our group chose diversity seeing it as a good thing and accepting people for who they are,” she said.
Another exercise involved choosing a president, and then addressing a pretend emergency situation. Ellie was part of the defense department, which analyzed the costs and safety impacts of potential decisions.
The week also included motivational speakers, and tours of historically significant sites, such as Harpers Ferry National Historic Park and memorials throughout Washington, DC.
The purpose of the conference is to help students recognize their own leadership abilities, as they learn about influential men and women from the past and present.
Ellie said the program definitely achieved it’s goal, and she feels more confident expressing her opinions, as well as public speaking in general.
“It prepares me for so many things in the future,” she said.