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Leadership School provides advocacy opportunities.

As a special component to the American Camping Association 2002 National Conference, Leadership School participants were given the opportunity to become active members in our country's democratic process. As part of the five-day Washington, DC, conference, ACA members met with their senators and representatives, providing a valuable opportunity to introduce the ACA and discuss significant issues of concern with federal leaders.

All 24 regional sections were represented on Capitol Hill, meeting with more than 80 different Congressional offices comprising almost every state. Prior to their visits, all members were briefed on issues and meeting protocol by advocacy professionals, including current Congressional staff; a former U.S. Senator, key members of the Bush, Reagan, and Clinton Administrations; and a representative from the National Mentoring Partnership.

In their meetings, conference participants discussed issues ranging from local tax concerns to national transportation policies, with a particular emphasis on criminal background checks, air passenger safety regulations and immigration issues.

With regard to criminal background checks, ACA members increased awareness among Members of Congress for the National Child Protection Improvement Act. ACA members sought to secure support for the bill from their senators, and asked members of the House of Representatives to introduce the legislation in that body. Introduced by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), the bill would help simplify the current criminal background check system by establishing a national coordination center and authorizing $180 million for the purposes of conducting background checks. If passed and signed into law, ACA members would receive timely, cost effective and thorough background checks for all employees and volunteers.

Recent national events have highlighted airport security as a significant issue for camps this summer. Although no specific legislation has been proposed, ACA members emphasized their concern regarding camper travel, and requested that their representatives continue to monitor the situation.

Few ACA members heard objections to the issues they raised during their Congressional meetings. In addition, many participants reconnected with former campers and established new relationships with staff members that were former campers and counselors. Many extended an invitation for a camp visit.

Almost all participants expressed strong feelings of accomplishment after their advocacy experience in Washington, D.C., and hope to have similar future opportunities. ACA encouraged participants to send follow-up letters and maintain relations with their representatives to ensure their concerns are met with an adequate response.

Additionally, many participants plan to use what they learned at Leadership School to educate others in their sections about advocacy, both at a federal and state level.

Through these meetings, ACA has begun to develop a cohesive voice on Capitol Hill while identifying key members that can serve as allies on important camp issues in the future.
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Title Annotation:American Camping Association 2002 National Conference
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:445
Previous Article:National office directory.
Next Article:Section directory. (American Camping Association[R]).
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