VIENNA -– Earlier this month, 12-year-old Garrett Nesselrode of Vienna participated in the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) in Washington, D.C.

Garrett, who now attends Jackson Junior High, was the only student to represent West Virginia in the program during the week, which was Aug. 5-10. The session included more than 250 students from across the nation.

The JrNYLC conference was titled "Voices of Leadership: Reflecting on the Past to Create the Future," and it included extensive leadership focus classes and educational sessions held in Washington, Philadelphia, Harpers Ferry and Baltimore. During the six-day program, the selected students met with elected officials and key Congressional staff members on Capital Hill, studied the impact of leadership through critical periods of American history and gained a stronger understand of the American democratic system.

"The unique aspects of our trips were most exciting for me," said Garrett, who was nominated to attend JrNYLC by his TREK teacher, Victor Tweel. "We reenacted the invasion of John Brown at Harpers Ferry and slept overnight at the Maryland Science Center. While we were there we laid on a bed of nails and experienced other cool science tests.

"Each day was so different, but everything was tied together in our Leadership Focus Group meetings."

Broken into different daily sessions, the Leadership Focus Groups taught the students about character, respect, goal setting and values.

"This was an intense learning experience that really helped me develop leadership skills," Garrett said. "It was great meeting and making friends with kids from all over the country. Every minute of the day was filled with something different so the week really went by fast."

According to Mike Lasday, executive director of the Congressional Young Leadership Council, the organization that sponsors JrNYLC, "The aim of the JrNYLC is to inspire students to recognize their own leadership skills, measure their skills against those of current and former leaders and return home with new-found confidence in their ability to exercise positive influence within their communities."

The non-profit, non-partisan educational organization has existed since 1985 and has inspired more than 200,000 young people to achieve their full leadership potential. Several sessions are held throughout the summer on a weekly basis so that thousands of children from across the country may participate. During the summer months, several students from West Virginia participated in JrNYLC.

Garrett is the son of Troy and Carrie Nesselrode of Vienna and has shared his JrNYLC experiences at home with his brothers Conner and Graham and his younger sister Katie.

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