For the last ten years, the Oregon Association of Student Councils has been one of the most consistent parts of my life. OASC's four seasonal rituals are annual fence posts to build my calendar around. Time with OASC is time that I can guarantee, without fail, that I'll be surrounded by laughter and old friends -- and every year, I meet some new friends, too.
When the leaves start to change, that means it's time to head to the Seaside Convention Center for OASC Fall Conference. In high school, that meant heading through the mountains that separated the city from the coast. In college, it meant hopping in Joey Edwards' or Cameron Broome's car and driving up I-5 for three hours (a little less if Joey was driving), leaving our homework and reading behind for the weekend; out of sight, out of mind. This year, it meant taking an Uber to SFO, hopping on a flight, then borrowing my dad's car to make it for two short days before I turned around and headed back again.
In February, it's time to spend a weekend sleeping on the gym floor of Valley Catholic High School for OASC Winter Energizer. In the Spring, we head to Portland, or Eugene, or Salem, for Spring Conference. And, of course, every summer we all find our way back to Western Oregon University, reunited once again in the grove, where magic is made.
It started when I was a student at Hazelbrook Middle School. Leigh Church, my leadership advisor, took us to Spring Conference every year. She told me I had to go to OASC Summer Camp, and when I got to Tualatin High School, it was mandatory for all ASB officers to attend summer camp, so I did -- and I've been back every summer since. It's one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I regularly think about how fortunate I am to have had Leigh Church and Mark Martens direct me to OASC when I was kid still trying to figure out the basics. It made all the difference.
It's been fourteen years since I walked into my first OASC event as an awkward middle school kid that didn't know much about who he was or what he wanted to do. Now I serve on the board of directors of OASC, helping guide an organization that contributed so much to my development. I've tried to give back in other ways, too. A few years ago, Joey and I made a presentation to the board asking them grant approval to bring back Summer Middle School Leadership Camp; they obliged and it's still going strong today. I also helped organize the OASC Alumni Association to raise money for camp scholarships, which, although only loosely organized, still exists because of the work of fellow alum Katie Beer.
My proudest contribution to OASC is creating the OASC Capitol Ambassadors Program, now in its third year, which connects high school students interested in politics to elected leaders, government officials, and the legislative process. It provides an outlet for students to weigh in on education policy questions before the Oregon Legislature and in the Oregon Department of Education, and it also prepares students to tackle, or at least approach, challenging public policy issues from a productive and collaborative point of view. This year, we had over 50 students from all across the state apply to be part of it.
I flew home from Palo Alto this weekend to volunteer at Fall Conference, which probably doesn't make sense to some. The name Oregon Association of Student Councils undersells what OASC is actually about. It's not just for student council kids. It's not about parliamentary procedure or helping plan dances or organize pep rallies. It's really about personal development and building relationships and teaching leadership skills. I keep giving back -- and coming back -- to OASC because of how big a difference it made in my life. Some of my best friends in the world I met years ago through this group. I learned a lot about empathy and authenticity and emotional strength from my weeks at summer camp. I also doubt that I would have had the confidence to come out of the closet if it weren't for OASC; the first people I told were all friends from OASC.
I am really tired. The last 48 hours did not include very much sleep or rest or mo. Tomorrow morning, I wake up at 4:30am, to make it back to Stanford for class. I think I might be getting sick. But there's not much that anyone could have done to keep me away from Seaside, Oregon this weekend. For the last two days, the Seaside Convention Center was home -- because that's where my family was.