Posted on 07/23/2013 @ 10:35 PM
When you sign up for IMPACT:DC, they give you lots of information about the program. It's community service/advocacy based, you'll visit local landmarks and get a taste of the college life. But there are a few important things they DON'T tell you, I think partly because they are brave things to claim.
IMPACT: DC will humble you. It will change part of you. It will challenge you. It will give you a new perspective on the world and your place in it. And it will leave you with a fire in your spirit, an ease in your heart, and some pretty great legs too! If you allow it too. If you take the immeasurable opportunities that this program gives you, and go for at least HALF, you will feel it.
We're teenagers, and what I'm claiming is crazy in general, I get it-especially with us. But here's what you're missing. The Jewish youth of this world has the potential to change the world. I believe it, and BBYO believes it too. This program has brought out so much in these young adults. Respect, clarity, self-awareness, poise, and my favorite, passion, has filled their minds and hearts. I claim it because I have experienced it. I have seen it in others.
This morning as we boarded the buses from Maryland Hillel to the Capitol in our professional attire, nerves showed as we sprung up the steps, eager to get there. The sounds of the ride were not voices singing along to a new pop song, but notecards being shuffled and peers role-playing "lobby-senator" in preparation for their meetings.
Once there, and split up into groups by building of appointment, these teens knew it was their moment. As we all meet up in front of the Capitol building under a few trees enjoying the breeze hours later, the energy was palpable. "How did it go!?....What did he say!?...Wasn't that AWESOME?!" These phrases jumped around as the activists shared their experiences, their successes, and their exclusive tours!
We knew we made a difference. We were affecting change, being a part of the legislative process without our right to vote. Only 1% of the U.S. population lobbies, and that was us. As a friend of mine, Alana, said today, "How many times in your life do you get to say 'I just lobbied'!?"
We were taken on a guided tour of the capitol to learn some pretty cool things about our nations' history and the place our democracy is centered around. We came back to campus for some free time (full of conversations on politics to conversations on the new royal baby) and yet another DELICIOUS dinner, courtesy of Maryland Hillel. After, we boarded the buses again for our Monument Tour at night! The teens connected with MLK Jr. and FDR at their memorials, looking over Tidal Basin, and walking under a rising orange moon. We posed with Lincoln and payed our respects to those lost in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.
Before coming back to campus we had circle groups in FDR Memorial Park and discussed how we have been soaking it all in and the effects we've seen it have on ourselves.
I shared the ride home with a younger boy in my service group who really set this all in for me. Having never experienced BBYO, or anything like IMPACT, his take on all this was eye-opening. His spoke of his plans when he returns home to continue helping those in his community, turning a love of his into a way to give back to others in need. During the ride, I really saw this young man for not just what he's done here or said aloud, but what was in his mind and heart. I know he will return from IMPACT:DC and not stop.
What I want you all to understand is that this trip has not just allowed us to make a difference to others, it's made a difference in US too.I don't know of any other program that allows you so many incredible opportunities to grow yourself AND affect change around you, I don't. So to the parents, friends, and family reading this to keep up on your loved one...When they return on Thursday and something in them has changed...don't say I didn't warn you:)
Hannah Procell, North Florida Region