Last weekend AMVETS hosted its 24th annual Spirit of America Youth Conference at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. Ninety-one high school students from across the country attended the annual four-day conference, which highlights the workings of American government, the judicial system, and tenets of freedom.
The weekend's events kicked off with a seminar on the foundations of American liberty hosted by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson reenactors and a constitutional law seminar, where students learned hands-on about the rights and freedoms afforded through our nation's governing document.
Students also participated in a Medal of Honor workshop hosted by retired Army Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
On Saturday, participants ventured into nearby Philadelphia to tour colonial landmarks such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Court and the Betsy Ross House. Students also visited the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, where teams participated in a mock trial.
On Sunday morning, Junior ROTC students participating in the conference led their fellow participants in a flag ceremony.
Participants for the conference are often selected through the competitive AMVETS Americanism Essay Contest. First place department winners of the 9th grade essay contest receive an all-expense paid trip to the seminar. AMVETS posts and departments from around the country also have the opportunity to sponsor additional students between 10th and 12th grade who have exhibited exemplary conduct to participate in the conference.
(Photos: Top: Alexander Hamilton explains the founding fathers' vision to Spirit of America Youth Conference participants at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. Middle: Students apply the weekend's lessons in a mock trial at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center. Bottom: JROTC cadets lead their fellow conference participants in a flag ceremony at Freedoms Foundation. Photos by Beryl Love.)