Washington D.C., a place of possibilities, a place for new friendship. The last time I was there I was 8 years old; it was in the middle of winter. The only thing I remember is the snow, which is rare in San Antonio, and chasing pigeons near the Lincoln Memorial. My recent trip to DC was extraordinary. It was hard to beat chasing pigeons, but it did – by 100 times. On my recent trip to DC, the network manager for Our Tomorrow Leroy Adams, was there with me, helping me network and learn. The purpose of the trip was to attend a conference called Cradle to Career Networking by Strive Together. They had speakers such as Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. This conference’s focus was to connect organizations and people and allow everyone to learn from each other. In my free time I got to visit different tourist spots and make a bunch of friends.

My first session was the new attendee pre-session, I realized that there was a different language being spoken at this conference. It’s difficult to describe, but everyone spoke with a richer vocabulary and talked about complex problems as if they were talking about the weather. I struggled to understand these conversations, understanding only fragments of this new language. I used those fragments to learn and understand these conversations people were having. As I went to more sessions and spoke with more people, the language started to become clear and understandable. By the end of the first day I could understand and engage in these complex discussions. I’m glad I was exposed to this higher level of discussion and learned to understand it and speak it.

My favorite session was a meet-up called “Integrating authentic community voice and engagement.” The focus was to discover ways to address the disenfranchisement of parents, students, and families from our decision-making bodies. My takeaway was learning different methods of how to get youth involved in Our Tomorrow. One method some organizations came up with was to offer compensation, so if a parent had to miss work to attend a meeting, then that time they missed would be compensated, but this method could not cross over to students. We had to brainstorm effective ways to increase student involvement without harming their education. We created two solutions for this dilemma: bring Our Tomorrow to schools via clubs and have conferences at different schools during lunch to attract more students.

I loved that I was given the opportunity to meet all the talented individuals at the conference. And, even though I didn’t have much free time, I loved being in DC, experiencing its atmosphere, and attending the conference. I met so many people and learned so many things. I will always remember the time I traveled to DC and attended a conference, and I will cherish the friendships I made along the way.

– Noah Heridia