Nearly two months ago I embarked on two “firsts” as I travelled to Nationals. As the newest member of the LifeSmarts staff, I was excited to see how everything would unfold during the fast-paced series of competitive sessions. My colleagues who attended past events told me that seeing LifeSmarts at Nationals makes the entire program come alive. I’d never visited Pittsburgh and was equally excited to see it for the first time. Well, Pittsburgh certainly has its charm (and excellent food!), and Nationals really is the culmination of months of hard work and dedication. After Friday night’s energetic opening events, I saw how passionate the coaches and teams were about not only learning the five LifeSmarts topic areas but ensuring that these had an impact within their personal lives. As someone who helps put together content for the program, it was a great feeling to hear questions or see teams collaborate on activities we’d designed in the office months prior. Seeing students grasp new material or ponder challenging questions are two of many reasons why Nationals is such a rewarding opportunity!
I loved talking with several teams and coaches who, like me, were brand new to Nationals and experiencing the events firsthand. One particular moment that made me smile was hearing a student tell the audience before the start of a match that Nationals was her first time on a plane. I love hearing how students are seeing different parts of the country or meeting new people whom they never would have known if it had not been for LifeSmarts. These experiences, as I told several teams, stay with us for a lifetime. You may not remember your freshman class schedule or the music played at prom (Trust me, I don’t!), but you’ll always remember new experiences. Not to mention, how many kids get to say that they travelled across the country for a team competition, won prizes, and had a ton of fun learning about new consumer topics? I certainly never had this much fun when I was in high school! By the time the final match came Monday morning, I was a bit sad to see the event end. The remaining teams were so impressive and answered questions I know I would have struggled with when I was their age. Whether teams finished in the top 10 or somewhere else in the ranking, I think everyone sharpened their consumer knowledge during the event and had a great time. I can’t wait to visit San Diego next year and see what new experiences await.