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WASHINGTON -- Thousands of FFA members from throughout the country are converging on Washington, D.C., this summer to analyze their personal skills and interests, develop leadership skills and create a meaningful community-service plan that will make a difference in their home communities.

More than 2,100 students are registered for the 2015 Washington Leadership Conference, the second-largest student experience that the National FFA Organization hosts each year. Created in 1969 and held annually in Washington, D.C., this year's conference began June 2 at the Omni Shoreham.

Through July 26, FFA members will spend a week under the guidance of educational professionals, counselors and professional FFA staff. In workshops, seminars and small groups, students will focus on identifying and developing their personal strengths and goals and undergo comprehensive leadership training that will help them guide their local FFA chapters.

Students will also analyze the needs of their communities back home, develop a wide-ranging and high-impact community-service initiative and implement their plan with the help of their FFA chapter upon return home. Students in recent years have organized food and clothing drives, volunteer campaigns, educational outreach initiatives and more.

"Students who attend the Washington Leadership Conference learn their purpose, how to value people, how take action and the importance of serving others," National FFA Organization CEO Dr. Dwight Armstrong said. "They leave with the knowledge and the confidence to act in ways that help their schools, communities and their country."

During their time in Washington, FFA members will experience the history of the nation's capital, touring landmarks including the Washington Monument, War Memorial, the National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Capitol, among others. Many students also arrange meetings with members of Congress.

Agricultural education teachers attend the conference as well, learning how to motivate and help develop their students' personal growth and leadership potential and how they can help maximize their local FFA chapters' community-service initiatives throughout the year.

At the conclusion of each weekly session is a civic engagement activity where participants apply what they have learned at the conference to a real, hands-on service activity. In a partnership with Meals of Hope, students will pack approximately 60,000 highly palatable meals that will be delivered directly to the food insecure of Washington, D.C. Meals will include an oatmeal apple cinnamon mix as well as fortified macaroni and cheese.

The 2015 National FFA Organization's Washington Leadership Conference is sponsored through the National FFA Foundation by title sponsors Monsanto and CSX and by weekly sponsors TransCanada, Crop Production Services, Farm Credit and BNSF. For more, visit www.FFA.org.

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