As a student leader at Centre High School, 17-year-old Carrie Carlson participated in many events this summer that strengthened her leadership abilities. The highlight for her was five days she spent in Washington D.C. at the Washington Leadership Conference sponsored by the National FFA organization.
Carlson was vice president of the Centre FFA chapter in 2011-12 and is serving as president this year. She also is the south central district vice president.
She said all those involved in the Washington conference were high school and college-age.
“It was amazing,” she said. “All of the leaders were young, and you could relate to them.”
The more than 300 participants were among the 2,200 FFA leaders to attend the conference during a seven-week period.
The emphasis of the conference was on service leadership. One major event that left a lasting impression on Carlson was a poverty dinner in which participants were divided into two categories for a simulation: high-to-middle-income and poverty level. Those in the higher category, who were few in number, were served in an elegant setting with white tablecloths, sparkling silverware, glassware, and lots of food. Most were in the poverty class and had very little food. Some went without.
“We would be in the high class because we have plenty to eat,” Carlson said, referring to her own situation at home.
The group learned about the various factors that put people into poverty — loss of a job, medical bills, and so forth.
Everyone participated in a service project in which they packaged 41,000 meals to be sent to Nicaragua.
Everyone was required to develop a “living to serve” plan for their local chapters and communities. Carlson’s plan involves visits to the elderly, shut-ins, or people in nursing homes who have no family. She hopes to implement the plan in her chapter this school year.
Carlson’s mother grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. As a side benefit to her trip, Carrie joined her mother, sister Andrea, and twin nieces for a visit to relatives.
Carlson participated in several other FFA activities this summer, beginning with the state FFA convention in late May.
Carlson and the other Centre FFA officers attended a two-day retreat in Colorado to make plans for the coming year. They also enjoyed water rafting, rock-climbing, and repelling.
Carlson met with other district officers at Rock Springs 4-H Camp, where they participated in workshops and planned for the coming year.
For the third consecutive year, Carlson attended the National Future Business Leaders of America Conference. She was the chairman of the Centre parliamentary procedure team that placed first in state competition, earning a trip to San Antonio, Texas in July.
As a freshman, Carlson earned first place in state competition in Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure, entitling her to a trip to Nashville, Tenn. As a sophomore, she was the state parliamentarian and went to Orlando, Fla.
At national FBLA conferences, students hear motivational speakers and participate in contests and competitions.
After attending the Rural Electric Cooperative Association youth camp in Colorado last summer as a representative of Flint Hills RECA in Council Grove, she was selected to return this summer as an ambassador for Kansas. The camp included young people from Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
Carlson was in charge of a group of eight students. She said her responsibility was to reach out to everyone and make them feel welcome.
The more than 80 youth in attendance formed a cooperative, and each small group sent one member to the board of directors. The board, in turn, chose a general manager who directed the program.
The youth heard speakers who demonstrated the power of high-voltage electric lines and how wild birds are protected from electrocution on hi-lines. The group learned the benefits of cooperatives. They also toured a coal mine and a coal-fired power plant.
As Carlson returned to school as a senior, she was looking forward to the challenge of being president of the Centre FFA chapter.
“It was definitely an enjoyable summer,” she said. “I hope we can follow through with what we talked about at officers’ retreat. It’s good to talk and plan, but it doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
Duane and Karen Carlson of Lincolnville are her parents.