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Student back from D.C. leadership conference

WORTHINGTON -- Based on leadership and academic achievement, K.C. Riley, 13, of Worthington, was chosen to go to Washington, D.C., from June 21-26 for the Junior National Young Leaders Conference.

"We got to see the National Mall and the art and sculpture museum," Riley said. "We went to the Newseum to see the news from the 1900s to the 2000s and everything that was important in history."

Riley's former teacher, Leroy Vetsch, recommended her for the trip, and after five other teachers evaluated her leadership, character and maturity via an online survey, she had to write an essay about one of her own leaders.

Riley, the daughter of Frank and Chris Riley of Worthington, chose Abraham Lincoln.

The 259 students attending the conference were divided into groups named according to the qualities of leadership. Riley's group of 17 middle-school students was called Respect 1.

The other qualities of leadership, as listed during one of the conference meetings are character, communication, goal-setting, problem-solving and teamwork.

During their meetings, conferences and tours, students learned about great leaders of the past and how they were examples of the six qualities of leadership.

Each day had a theme -- voices of leadership, voices of courage, voices of struggle, voices of freedom, voices of change and voices of the future.

The meetings weren't simply lectures, although the group did hear many speakers present many topics. Students also had the opportunity to think critically and present arguments about issues, often tied to their activities for the day.

For example, the students visited Harpers Ferry, where in 1859 John Brown raided the U.S. Armory and Arsenal to steal guns to be used in a slave uprising. Brown was tried for treason, convicted and hanged. He remains a controversial figure in American history -- prompting the students' topic of discussion on Monday.

"We had a debate on whether you would follow John Brown to take the guns from the armory (and) whether it was better to do speeches or have a war," Riley said.

Each day was different and full of activities, with students eating breakfast starting at 6:45 a.m. and finishing their meetings around 10 p.m.

They visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and toured the National Portrait Gallery and Capitol Hill.

"You think you can go out and do something," Riley said of her experience in Washington, D.C. "You have all this background and build-up for when you're trying to do something."