About 130 Utah high school students gained new insights on the values of freedom while making new friends at the 28th annual Freedom Academy sponsored by the Utah National Guard.
The students came from all parts of Utah and will be seniors when school starts this fall. Most have been elected to student government posts at their schools. Each of the students, or delegates, graduated Friday from the academy after six days of speakers, field trips and social activities.Not all of the participants knew what to expect when they arrived at Camp Williams Sunday, where the entire group stayed during the past week. "Some thought it was going to be like basic training," said Jason North from Fillmore.
By the end of the week, North had ridden under the thumping blades of a "Huey" Army National Guard helicopter, rappelled on the training range at Camp Williams and learned a lot from speeches on the costs of freedom. Field trips also included stops at the Air National Guard headquarters and a "free" afternoon at an area water slide.
Every morning began with a flag ceremony before breakfast.
The students gave speeches of their own during a Thursday night speech competition, in which they emphasized the things we take for granted, North said.
Melanie Morgan, who will be the student body president at Dugway High School this fall, won the speech competition and said it doesn't take a lot of time or effort to be patriotic. Show respect when the colors are presented at football games by paying attention to the flag ceremony and singing the national anthem, she advised. Just thinking about everyday freedoms and how meaningful they are can make a difference, she added.
"It's really pretty simple," she said.
She quoted revolutionary-era patriot Thomas Paine, who said, "What we attain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly."
Derek Carter of Provo said a visit with inmates his age at the prison Thursday gave him an interesting perspective on the value of freedom. "All of the kids there said they would stay out when they got out," he said. A chat later that evening between the group and a prison official dimmed those hopes: Many of the prisoners, he was told, would be back in jail a second time.
"The best way to experience freedom is to experience the other side," Carter said of his experience at the prison, adding that speakers at the academy who had lived in parts of the world where basic freedoms are denied also heightened the students' awareness of the freedoms that are often taken for granted.
One staff member dissected the pledge of allegiance and talked about the various components of liberty and freedom and commitment mentioned. "That set the stage for the rest of the time," Carter said.
The students also made new friends. Some stayed up until 4 a.m. after a Thursday evening social to swap addresses and arrange to continue new-found friendships.