On Wednesday, Jay Kelton shadowed Waveland Mayor Mike Smith for the day

Bay-Waveland Middle School student Jay Kelton recently returned from the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.

Jay's teacher, Angela Jaynes, nominated him for the leadership learning experience.

According to the conference website, the six-day program, which was held from July 7 through 12, serves as a "living classroom for students while they develop important leadership skills and enjoy the educational experience of a lifetime."

"With a focus on influential figures from American history and social advocacy, JrNYLC is a program packed with fun and engaging site experiences as well as hands-on activities that bring the concepts and skills of effective leadership to life," the website states. "Students at JrNYLC learn to work together as they develop action plans that they can put into practice in their homes and communities, and continue beyond their conference."

Jay was also awarded a $500 scholarship to help pay for the cost of the trip. He said he wrote an essay about who inspires him to be a great leader.

"I wrote it about my mom," he said. "She played both roles of mom and dad and helped me grow up."

Jay said Wednesday that he and the other participants stayed at the University of Maryland during the conference.

On the first day, conference leaders split participants into Leadership Focus Groups, Jay said.

Each group chose a topic and thought of a solution.

Jay said his group chose building a sustainable plant.

"The four of us knew how much a problem global warming is," he said. "The group came up with an idea, that does need to be tweaked more, about putting a gap in the ozone layer to release the carbon from the atmosphere,"Jay said. "We would have to send a space station or satellite and break it with strong radio frequencies. Scientists know that the ozone layer is made of carbon and oxygen. A temporary hole would have to be repaired, but it would get rid of global warming."

Jay said that he and his group members discussed ways that individuals could evaluate their own contributions to pollution and how to combat it by things such as utilizing public transportation.

"The adults thought it was a good idea, but thought it needed to be tweaked because the Earth rotates and they were worried about hinges coming in through the gap or leaving because space acts as a vacuum."

The groups also gave presentations on their topics, Jay added.

During the conference, Jay also participated in a sleepover at the Maryland Science Center and visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Harper's Ferry, and toured Capitol Hill.

Jay said he also met and listened to inspirational speaker, Anthony Robles.

Jay said that Robles became a wrestling champion, despite being born with only one leg.

Jay said Robles told the youths to not "let anyone knock you down" while pursuing goals.

Jay said he also made friends from around the country and said he wished he had more time to learn more.

He's also been invited back as an alumni to next year's conference in Boston.

Jay said one of the things he learned is how to talk to people better.

"Before, I would let other people start the conversation," Jay said. "Now, I can start a conversation and state my opinion better. I'm more confident and became more passionate discussing the environment with kids my age. It's more intense because we know how to talk to one another. We had a lot of good conversation about it."

Jay said he wants to return next year because this year's conference gave him a "base structure," and he wants to continue to "build off of that."

Learn more about the conference at www.envisionexperience.com.

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