“I remember a few months ago, my dad asking if I was ready to fill out the application for this year’s teen summit and thinking, “Okay I’ll do it, this looks fun!” My mom checked my swim schedule and gave a thumbs-up to the dates in August for the camp. The camp was scheduled to start just days after I would return from the North American Challenge Cup (NACC) and I would get home a day before I started my Junior year of high school. The timing was perfect if I was accepted, so I dug into the application website and read up on the requirements. I took one look at the short essay questions that I was required to answer and suddenly I did not want to apply anymore. I put off applying for about a week until I was finally forced by my parents to do it. They said something about it being a great opportunity and would be good for me. So I returned to the application site and studied the three essay choices. I only had to answer two of the questions. When I finished, I had my mom and dad proofread it and then I submitted the application for evaluation.
One day over summer I was sitting on our couch watching TV when I decide to check my email and discovered seven new ones. I noticed one email from Casey Mull, the director of the Teen Summit program so I opened it. It congratulated me on being invited to attend the 2013 AFR/ANG Teen Leadership Summit. I read through the email, looked up and announced to my family, “Guys, I’m going on the Teen Summit! I made it in!” Then I forwarded the email to both my parents and they were delighted. I filled out the registration information then I kind of forgot about it. After returning home from NACC I realized that I had to get myself ready to go to camp and I remember feeling lazy, I was exhausted from a summer of swimming and I just wanted to sleep for a week. I did not want to go to a camp where I didn’t know anyone. But soon enough, my departure day came.
My dad dropped me off at the Palm Springs airport around 4:30 a.m., and from the start I had to act as an independent, mature 16-year old. It was my first time flying on a plane by myself and I enjoyed the feeling of freedom. When I arrived at Denver International Airport, I had to navigate through all the different terminals and eventually found a group of adults wearing red shirts that said “AFR/ANG Teen Leadership Summit.” I knew I was in the right place when the adults immediately greeted me and introduced themselves.
I met a few kids who arrived at the same time as me and we all became fast friends. It was so interesting getting to know these kids and all the other teens at camp because everyone was from a different state and we all led very different lives. My initial thought after talking to many of them was, “Wow, they all know so much about the military and a lot of them want to go into the military when they’re older, how strange.” My knowledge of the military was minimal so it was a little overwhelming to hear all of these opinions about different military bases around the country.
When we finally got to Cheley Camp, where the summit was hosted, we unloaded our luggage, ate a delicious lunch (all the meals there were absolutely fantastic), we were issued gift bags with a water bottle, umbrella, and itinerary, and then we had free time for several hours until dinner.
Almost all 120 kids were there but it was amazing because we were all strangers at a strange camp, and facing the fact that we had to live with each other for five days. I admit, the first day, with all that free time and not knowing anyone except for my few fast friends (who were in different cabins), I was miserable and cold (it had rained the whole day) and I just wanted to go home. I wanted my bed. I wanted snacks to be accessible all day. It was tough the first day. It didn’t help that it was freezing cold at night. Since I’m from the desert, I really froze. It was all right, though, because every night got a little warmer and by the last night I didn’t wear any extra clothes.
Tuesday was travel day with a lot of free time and we were also given our activities that we registered for weeks earlier. Wednesday I participated in riflery and archery, Thursday was fishing and rock climbing, and Friday I had woodworking and leadership activities with the camp staff and our adult leaders. Friday night was the Annual Talent Show. Saturday was also a tough day for me because my allergies really flared being in a much different environment than the desert. Saturday was horseback riding, although it was a tough day for me because of my allergies being in a different environment, but it was as nice to see everyone dressed up so nicely at the banquet on Saturday night. Sunday came too fast, and before we knew it, we were saying our good-byes. It’s strange to think how we didn’t know each other at all the first day and by Sunday, some of us were crying because of the possibility that we would never see each other again.
It was a great adventure. I had never experienced many of the activities that I participated in at camp but found them all so much fun. I could talk to anyone without being judged. I think that was one of the greatest aspects of the camp; there was no judgment, no talking behind people’s back.
There was no need to be insecure. I got some cool souvenirs, made some lifelong friends, learned about the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. I learned what it takes to be a good leader.
Leadership takes courage, compassion, cooperation, patience, and the openness to accept new ideas.
Now I can take what I learned and apply it to my high school experience. I know I can help freshmen adjust, help sophomores discover who they are, help my fellow junior friends prepare for the SAT and ACT, and help my senior friends figure out what path to take for the rest of their lives. I’m so thankful to have been selected for this camp because I made friends with some amazing people.
(NOTE: Andrade’s grandfather, Placido Andrade, was an original member of the 452nd Bomb Group and her father is Master Sgt. John Andrade, 56th Aerial Port Squadron air transportation craftsman.)