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After being selected as a delegate to the Freedoms Foundation Leadership Conference at Valley Forge, I agonized over whether it would be worth missing a week of school and work. However, the trip exceeded my highest expectations. My opinions, notoriously hard to change, were refreshingly challenged as I debated and discussed controversial issues with peers from around the country. I was shocked by the ease with which we were able to collaborate and bond, despite our diverse backgrounds, opinions, and stubbornness.
Afterwards, I readily accepted a nomination for California Girls’ State. Girls’ State focused more on government and less on history, but the girls were also diverse in opinions and backgrounds. It struck me at a talent show there that the week’s political activities showed only a fraction of each individual; their performances gave a hint of the girls’ depth, and how this influences their views.
These trips awakened in me a strong sense of the need to be open to ideas and experiences and to recognize when personal change is for the better. I returned to school able to enrich classmates with images and stories not found in textbooks, and I learned to approach political opponents by identifying and building from common ground.
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