February 22, 2015

TeenPact Tennessee 2015!!

Hey ya'll!!  I've been meaning to blog about my TPTN15 experience for the past couple weeks but... I got sick :(  Anyway, here it is now.  I had an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G time this year, with amazing staff, amazing cabin moms/dads, and amazing students.  Also an amazing State Coordinator and an equally amazing State Class Field Director, Mrs Morton.  That's a TON of amazing stuff :)  This was the BEST week I've ever had at TeenPact, (considering that it's only my second year and last year I didn't even WANT to be there, that's sayin' a lot :D)  and I made a ton of new friends as well as getting to know the old ones better. 

First off - Friday night:

     We (my mom and I) were planning to leave on Friday night but instead left on Saturday morning.  So all of Friday, I packed (which took a REALLY long time; my packing list was 5 1/2 pages long) and decorated the windows of our van with blue and white car-window-paint-stuff - my dad brought it home for me in TP colors.  Yay for dads!! 


Capitol or BUST!!  Since we spend most of our day at the state capitol in Nashville, it only makes sense!!  On the window behind me, there is a TP logo - it's kinda hard to see though.


TeenPacter's on board!  This is kind of ironic because we ended up not using our van for transportation - it sat in the parking lot all week.  But I was still in it on the way/on the way back so it was still true!!  There is another TP logo behind me...


And we are (well, were) TEENPACT BOUND!!!  My mom thought it was really funny that this year we couldn't leave soon enough (in my opinion anyway) and last year I sat in the car the whole 3 hours with my arms crossed pouting (according to her anyway :D)  Let's just say that last year, I was NOT happy about going, but this year, I couldn't wait!!

That's pretty much all that happened on Friday.  I didn't get any pictures of me packing but... that would have been pretty boring :)

Saturday:

     The trip to Nashville from our house was about 2 1/2 hours and there was a time change.  On the way in, we stopped at the Nashville airport to pick up the first of the arriving staffers.  After doing this, we still had plenty of time, so we went to lunch at the San Antonio Taco Company.  That place was - well, let's just say it was SUPER good!! :)


This is Maddie and me in front of the restaurant.  Maddie was one of the staffers for the week.  She was super amazing and super sweet!!

After we took Maddie to her host home, I spent the rest of my day at my cousins house in Nashville.  My mom went to one of the staff host homes and had pizza with all of them, I was going to go but then my finger got all swollen and was hurting so I just decided to stay there at my cousins.

Sunday:

     On Sunday, we met the staff at my cousins church and went to the service there.  Then we headed to lunch at a Mexican place.  After that, we went to Target for the staff to get some last minute stuff they needed - I got 3 boxes of Little Debbie's and a box of fruit snacks.  That's what I needed :)

     When we were done shopping, we finally started out for the camp - Deer Run Retreat!!  Deer Run is a SUPER nice camp, we stayed there last year as well.  The staff unpacked in their cabins and settled in then met in the Dining Hall to unpack "the box" and get all the stuff ready for the class.  I helped Rebekah, our intern girl, with some of the stuff she was doing to get ready for the class starting the next day.


This is the staff meeting when they were finished sorting through the box.  Less than 24 hours later, TPTN15 would be in session!!  And just FYI, this is my mom's picture, I was in the other room blogging.  Remember my post with the photo of my TP Nail Art?  Yup, that's what I was doing :)

After the staff meeting, we went to eat dinner at Chili's but first - we picked up Mrs Morton from the house she was staying at so she could eat with us.  I had been waiting to see her for a whole entire YEAR (yup, I actually never got to tell her "bye" at the previous years class so, yeah) but since I was in the back of the van, I had to keep waiting until we got to Chili's.  ARGH!! lol :)  I got to see a little bit of the Super Bowl at the restaurant too, yes, it was Super Bowl Sunday.  We got there at half time and when we pulled back into the camp after dinner, someone said "Patriots won"  and I'm pretty sure at least half of us were like "seriously".  lol 

Monday:

     MONDAY MORNING DID NOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!  And when it finally came, I still had to wait 6 hours.  The class on Monday didn't start until 12:45pm since it was the first day - and I woke up at 6:30ish.  Anyway, after breakfast I unpacked my stuff in one of the camper cabins then changed into my "capitol clothes" and went down to the Dining Hall to help my mom with registration from 9-11am.  After registration, my mom, Mrs Morton, me, and 4 other kids that my mom was in charge of that morning got in the 15p van and went to Chik-fil-a for lunch, then the Legislative Plaza, where our classroom was.  


Finally... TPTN15 had begun.  Finally, finally, finally.  Yeah, anyway, we started out with the box game, which is SUPER fun.  It's like an ice breaker game where you just kinda walk around getting to know the other kids.  I love it.  Then after a few other things, the staff performed the "bill skit" which basically shows how a bill becomes a law using candy and comedy.  "Boring government classes" can't get much better than that!!!



After the bill skit, we went through "first reads".  Before the class, there was homework for everyone to complete - one of the things we had to do was write a one page bill for the purpose of debating then in TP Legislature.  My bill topic (or "title") was "to lower the required age from 15 to 13 to be certified as a Lifeguard in the state of Tennessee".  It never came up in TP Leg though, so I never got a chance to debate it.  Basically first reads is where we all stood up, row by row, and formed a line to the podium.  Then when it was our turn, we went up and started reading our bill.  "A bill to be entitled an act:  bla bla bla"  after we had read enough so that everyone could understand what the general idea of our bill was, the Chair (in this case, it was our Program Directer, Jordan) would bang the gavel and assign our bill to a "committee".  There were 5 committees - FIHI, GO, EEC, WAMO, and SAT.  Don't ask me what they stand for, because I forgot :)  Each student got assigned to a committee - I was in FIHI.  The first day, we did committee breakouts after the first couple hours or so to do introductions and pretty much just get to know each other a little bit since a good portion of our time at the capitol would be spent with these people in our committee.  In this breakout, we also had elections!!  Each committee elected a Chairman (or "the Chair") and a Clerk who would kind of facilitate bill discussion during lunch each day.  I ended up being elected to Clerk in our committee, which was really fun - except it was kind of hard to eat lunch because I was always reading bills.  During lunch each day, we had a "working lunch" - we were dismissed by committee and each committee ate lunch together.  During lunch, the Clerk would read the bills assigned to that committee during first reads and then we would discuss it as a committee, led by the Chair.  If a bill passed through committee, it would go back to the Floor (which is all the TP students as a whole) and have a chance of getting called up there.  If it failed in committee, well - it failed.  That was a really long explanation of bills and committees - I hope it makes sense at least a little bit!!


TP Leg - TP Leg was always one of my favorite parts of the week.  I think it was everyone else's too.  We LOVED getting to debate, amend, and pass/fail bills in a Mock Legislature format.  Throughout the week, we learned Parliamentary Procedure, which is pretty much the proper protocol for a Leg. session.  When we adjourned "Sine Die" (from the Latin "without day" meaning "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing", or for an indefinite period) at the end of the week, every single person in that room went "awwwwwwwww :(".  Seriously, you can ask anyone else!!

Class goes a little later on Monday since we start later so when class ended on Monday, we went back to the camp and ate dinner, had worship, and had a little bit of fellowship time - which can also be defined as "game" time - which can also be defined as "lets play do you love your neighbor?!" time :)  At 9:00pm we went back to our cabins to get ready for bed and get ready for Rendezvous.  

Rendezvous is where a couple staff members go into each of the student cabins and we just debrief and talk about our day together.  We were also given a "word" for the next day that we were supposed to "use" as much as possible while at the capitol/camp.  For example, on Monday night, the word Maddie and Kate (the staffers in our cabin) gave us was "brave".  So on Tuesday, we were supposed to try and be as brave as possible, even if it just meant walking up to someone we didn't know and saying "hi".  Then during Tuesday night Rendezvous we would talk about how we were brave, and so on throughout the week.

Tuesday:

     We started Tuesday morning by waking up.  And in my cabin, this was a big deal.  Picture this - 9 teenage girls, 1 cabin mom, about 8 different alarms.  All with a wide variety of ringtones from music to doorbells, set to go of at 6:15am.  Every morning.  Yeah, DEFINITELY a big deal, huh?  :)  

After we woke up we got showered/got dressed/got together all our stuff then went down to the Dining Hall for breakfast.  And just FYI, since we did the same thing every morning, I'm only gonna say this once :)  After breakfast we got our bags/notebooks out of our cabins if we left it in there then got in the vans and headed for the Capitol!!

When we arrived at the Capitol, we started off our day with worship and a devotion led by one of the staffers.  Then we would either hear from a speaker or start by breaking out into committees and going on a prayer walk.  Remember, much of our time at the Capitol was spent in our committees when we were not with the group!!  However, I was an Alumni this year (because it was my second year) so I had additional homework to complete in preparation for the Alumni track. (I had to write two essays - one defending Interventionism, one defending Isolationism)  While the first time students went on their Field Experiences (interviewing lobbyists, judicial review, bill analysis, etc.) the Alumni would gather in a separate room to discuss this years topic - Interventionism vs. Isolationism.  


Tuesday morning's speaker - Speaker Beth Harwell.  Ms Harwell spoke to us about the "game" of politics and how we could be involved.  

Fun Fact - Ms Harwell is the first woman to serve as the Speaker of the House in the state of Tennessee.


Tuesday afternoon's speaker - Associate Attorney General Bill Young.  Mr Young spoke to us about the positions of the Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General and how these positions are acquired.

Fun Fact - In Tennessee, the Attorney General is selected by the State Supreme Court every 8 years.  We are the only state to do this!

After we did worship, devotion, heard from our speakers, went on prayer walks, and did a little TP Leg, it was finally time for lunch!!  Yay for lunch!!  We got Subway each day and had a "working lunch" with our committees.  That can be defined as "working while we eat lunch".  For me that was a little difficult - as I said earlier, I was elected to the Clerk position of my committee so I was reading bills and didn't have much time to eat :/

After lunch, we gathered back together in the big room and Ben (another staffer) gave us a course on Politics 101.  A.K.A. the different types of elections, what redistricting is, and campaign strategy.  It's actually really fun - in case you haven't caught on, TeenPact isn't some boring government class!!! 

After Politics 101, we got a chance to try this stuff out for ourselves.  We were counted off 1 - 2 - 3 and each "number" became a "party".  The parties went into 3 different rooms and we went through the steps of a Primary Election.  The Primary Election is basically choosing a party nominee to run in the General Election, which is basically voting for a candidate regardless of party.  So in each party, 3 Senatorial Nominees (Senators) and 1 Gubernatorial Nominee (Governor) was elected to move on to Open Forum and the General Election.

We were also assigned 3 "issues" which we were to develop a Party Stance on.  The three issues we were assigned were TennCare, Gun control, and Common Core.

I was part of the Multi-Capitalist party.  I was also nominated by my wonderful friend Summer to participate in the Senatorial Primary Election.  I ended up being one of the three nominees to advance to the General Election.  Yay.


After elections were over we packed up and headed back to the camp where we changed and ate dinner.  One of the local students moms brought poster board and markers for the Senatorial/Gubernatorial Nominees to make campaign posters.  I got myself a campaign team together and we worked on posters for myself and my friend Drew, who was running for governor, until it was time for worship. 

I really looked forward to worship time each night.  Hunter (another staffer) led us in worship for a few minutes then we heard from Mr Crum (our Class Director) each night.  On Tuesday night, we broke up into small groups with other students and a staff member or two to pray for each other and the week.  A lot of us were praying to get over our nerves for the elections!


After worship time, a few of us skipped fellowship/game/let's play do you love your neighbor? time to finish working on campaign posters.  As you can probably tell from the photo above, this was one crazy bunch of kids!! :)  


Ok, we've calmed down a little bit.  And you can also see some of the posters in the making.



My completed poster.  My campaign slogan was "Takin' it to a whole new level".  I hung it over the stairs :)

Tuesday night Rendezvous - our word of the day was brave.  One thing I said was running in the Primary Election.  I'm not a public speaking/get up in front of people kind of person, so it was a little bit scary-ish for me.  Several other people said the same thing.  One thing TP does is make you step out of your comfort zone - which is a good thing.  It's just a little scary sometimes.

Wednesday - Election Day!!:
     
     Wednesday started like every other morning.  At the Capitol, we had worship and devotion.  Then we split up into committees to go on our Daily Prayer Walk.


When we went on our Prayer Walks, we would go to different places inside/outside the Capitol, for example outside the door of the Governors office, and pray for whatever that place signified.  So if we were outside the Governors office, we prayed for the Governor.  Some of the different places we prayed at were a War Memorial, outside the House of Representatives and the Senate, and different offices inside the building.


This is my committee, minus me because I was in the Alumni Track, on one of their field experiences.  I am not sure which one, I just found the picture on my mom's camera and decided to use it.


TP Leg in session.




Our Wednesday afternoon speaker was Ms Bobbie Patray.  Ms Patray is the President of the Tennessee Eagle Forum.  She talked to us about what Eagle Forum is and what they do.  Then she answered some of our questions about her favorite part of her job, the hardest part of her job, and the most exciting thing she had ever done through Eagle Forum.  Ms Patray was a very fun and interesting speaker and I really enjoyed listening to her!!


After we heard from Ms Patray, it was time for the moment all of us - well, most of us - had been waiting for - election time!!  Yay.  First we did Open Forum, which is where the Senatorial then the Gubernatorial candidates come up and answer some questions such as Why do you think we should vote for you? and What do you think is the most important character trait of a leader?  I for one was shaking the entire time, it was nerve racking.  I was SO glad when it was over, but I actually kind of enjoyed it too - AFTER it was over :)


Our three Gubernatorial candidates.  At the end of their Open Forum, they received a random item that the had to "sell" to the class.  It was pretty funny.  Ok, like REALLY funny :)

After Open Forum was over, we all sat down and everyone got a ballot.  Then we voted, but of course they didn't give us the results until later, at the end of the day...


So we went and took our group picture.  I wore bright orange on picture day on purpose so that I could find myself easily in the picture, but then you couldn't see my orange.  Oh well, I still know where I am :)  We had about 55 kids this year, which is over double last year!  It was a really great group of kids and a really great class.


The Memphis group!


The Knoxville group!!  Most of these kids go to my homeschool co-op on Mondays, so I will still be able to see them every week.  And the ones that don't either swim with me or are a part of my brothers band, so I will see them too :)


The Nashville group!

So after pictures, they FINALLY announced the elections!!  I didn't win Senate, but I honestly didn't really mind.  The thing is, if you win Senator/Governor you have to give a short speech at graduation - which I didn't really want to do, but I would have if I did win.  I was happy either way :)

After they announced election results, we went back to the camp and changed/ate dinner/had worship time, then it was "lets play do you love your neighbor?" time!!  Do you love your neighbor? is a SUPER fun game that we played every night.  We sit in a circle of chairs with one less chair than we have people.  Then the extra person stands in the middle and picks another person sitting in the circle.  They then ask them "Do you love your neighbor?" (the people sitting on each side).  If the person says "no", then their neighbors have to switch seats while the person in the middle tries to take a seat.  If they say "yes", then they go on to say something like "but I don't love anyone wearing... blue jeans".  Then every person in the circle wearing blue jeans has to get up and find a different seat - the last person standing is the new it.  It is a really fun game and everyone enjoyed it!!


Do you love your neighbor?


Yes, but...

We went back to our cabins to get ready for bed/Rendezvous at 9:00pm every night.  The next day was Graduation, so we were all really excited!

Thursday - Graduation!!:

     Thursday was a little different - Graduation was at 1:00pm so we didn't have as much time to do everything we usually did.  After worship and devotion, we went on a final Prayer Walk with our committee that was a little bit different.  The guys went with Ryan (one of the staffers in our committee) and the girls went with Rebekah (the other staffer in our committee).  Then we prayed for each other to use what we learned during the week and apply it to our daily life.  When the girls finished up, we went outside on the balcony for a few minutes then got cold and came in to take crazy selfies :)


A little TP Leg before Graduation.


We got to have Graduation in the TN House of Representatives.  We even got to use the little buttons and microphones on the Reps desks' when we did TP Leg!!  It's really cool to be able to use the House, it's basically like we are all Representatives for a little bit!!


We started off with our last session of TP Leg.  We did this for about 30 minutes so that our parents who came could see what we had been learning all week.  When we adjourned Sine Die, no one was happy.  :(





After TP Leg, we listened to the 3 Senators and our Governor give their speeches.  This is Governor Meece giving his speech.  It was really good.  They all were!!


After speeches, Rebekah gave out awards for top scoring First time/Alumni students on homework.  I ended up winning the Alumni award - which really, REALLY surprised me!!


Then we graduated.  I was humming "Pomp and Circumstance" in my head the whole time.  Actually, I had been hearing it in my head since the day before.  *Sigh*  :)  As they called our name, we got a certificate then went down the line of staffers to shake their hands - or give them a hug.

When graduation was over, some of the kids were leaving (there was also a Political Communications Workshop on Friday, but not everyone stayed for that) so we said goodbye to them and did some TP T-shirt signing.  Then those of us who were staying for the PCW went back to the camp.

Thursday night was a little different than the other nights - we did not have worship, instead we just did different things, since it was our last night.  Some people played Hacky sack (which I did NOT understand), some people just talked, I think there was a small game of Do you love your neighbor? - I played carpetball outside with some of my friends.  It was really fun!! 


Mrs Morton left on Thursday night :(  I went inside for a few minutes to talk to her and say goodbye before she left.  Now I have to wait a whole entire 'nother year - unless I go to NC...

We also did not have Rendezvous that night, we were packing to go home the next day after class :(  The week seems really long when you're in the middle of it, then when you're all of a sudden getting ready to leave - it seems really short!!

Friday - Political Communications Workshop:

     We had some spare time after breakfast on Friday morning because we didn't have to leave until an hour later than we usually did.  So guess what I did?


I played carpetball!!  I used to play carpetball at my old camp when I lived in North Carolina a few years ago - but I had forgotten how fun it was!!  I went out there with some of my friends after breakfast and we just played in the cold until it was time to go.  It was fun... just cold.


This is me and my friends Michelle and Katie.  

The PCW is more of speech and debate, instead of the Government like the 4-day class is.  We did some Town Hall debate kind of thing (I'm pretty sure that's what it's called) and then divided into 4 groups for a skit - or, 4 skits. 


Skit planning...

  

This is our groups skit in action.  I was a news reporter out interviewing people about their opinions on marijuana and if it should/should not be legalized, etc.  I got some interesting answers - I was trying so hard not to laugh the whole time!!



While the PCW for 13-19 yr olds was in session, there was also a 1-day class for 8-12 year olds.  The 1-day class is like a condensed version of the 4-day class.  My brother and sisters were part of the TPTN15 1-day class - this is them above.


And this was our wonderful, amazing staff team for the week - Ryan, Jordan, Ben, Elijah, Hunter, Mr Crum, Maddie, Kate, Rebekah, Lindsey, and Anna.  They were all so great and really taught us a lot throughout the week.  I'm so glad I got to meet all of them and be a part of this class that they led.  I'm looking forward to more TeenPact classes and events in the upcoming year!!