Local student Jessica Benson recently attended the 44th annual Texas Farm Bureau’s youth leadership conference, formerly known as citizenship seminar, held at Angelo State University in June.

Benson was sponsored by the Ellis County Farm Bureau and joined more than 300 high school juniors and seniors from over 150 counties across the state.

“The purpose of the conference is to provide students with a better understanding of their American heritage and the capitalistic free enterprise system,” according to Eldon Sparkman, president of the Ellis County Farm Bureau.

The students began their week as Angelo State University representatives welcomed them to the conference before starting the lecture aspect of the program.

Afterward, motivational speaker Chad Hymas spoke about setting and achieving goals. Students were captivated as Hymas shared his personal message of ‘Overcoming Adversity.’

The students then had the opportunity to hear presentations given by Coleburn Davis, TFB associate director of Organization Programs; Shelley York, 2006 Miss TFB; and Logan Warren, 2006 speech contest winner, on the topic of ‘Farm Bureau Scholarship Opportunities.’

Kelly Graves of Baylor University in Waco also presented a program regarding paying for education, leaving the students with some worthwhile options to consider.

During the week-long event, students discussed topics such as the free enterprise system, constitutional government, Americanism, leadership and goal setting.

Students were also encouraged to meet with school and civic groups upon their return home to share the knowledge they have received.

In addition, the students participated in a program called ‘congressional insight’, which allowed them to simulate a congressional office and election.

At the end of the week’s banquet a program entitled “Farm Bureau - Your Host” was presented by Kenneth Dierschke, president of Texas Farm Bureau, and Clebe McClary, motivational speaker, challenged the students to “Press on Regardless.”

Students who complete the youth leadership conference and have given a speech on free enterprise to at least five groups have taken the first step toward qualifying for the Free Enterprise Speech contest, which awards more than $19,000 in scholarships.