By Patriot Academy Alumnus Casey Lay
Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck. Charlie Kirk. If those names are familiar to you then Patriot Academy is your home. More importantly, if those names are NOT familiar to you, Patriot Academy is still your home.
I first heard about Patriot Academy at a homeschool convention in May of 2018. Rick Green, a former Texas representative, walked on the stage and discussed his week-long mock legislation camp held in the heart of Austin, Texas.
He spoke of liberty. Of freedoms eroding. The obligation of youth knowing the Constitution and being well-informed. He intrigued me and I thought of little else than attending Patriot Academy after hearing him and researching it online.
Getting Ready for Patriot Academy
There was a cost involved, but the offer was high-value. I had been interested in history, politics, and the legislative process since I was in the 8th grade. PA looked like a week I would never forget.
I felt like I was prepared for the events that would unfold. As it turned out, I was not. I was not prepared- not prepared for the ways in which Patriot Academy would challenge me, the like-minded community that would welcome and enrich me, and the awe-inspiring closing ceremony. All of those together made it a week that profoundly affected me.
When I told my mom that I wanted to attend, she was happy for me, but aware that as a seventeen year-old incoming senior, I needed to take responsibility for making it happen.
The deadline for my application was only 2 weeks away. She told me I would be responsible for submitting my application to the National Patriot Academy, paying for half of the cost, and completing any pre-Academy work assigned to all PA freshman.
There is a lot of preparation required in order for you to get the most out of Patriot Academy. I advise anyone who wants to attend to do all the required prep as far in advance as possible. You will truly get much more out of it and enjoy all that you learn. I find that especially so this year as I prepare in a timely manner for this summer session.
Arriving at Patriot Academy
When the day arrived to leave for Patriot Academy, I packed my bags with anticipation. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be an adventure. My parents dropped me off at the hotel (I would be staying with over sixty students from all across the United States), and hugged me goodbye.
I got to bed fairly early that night, knowing that sleep would be very limited over the next few days. I woke up ready to start the day, feeling confident and excited.
I had participated in several other mock legislation camps and had written and edited mock bills in the past; I thought I had it in the bag. I soon realized that I did NOT have it all together. I needed lots of help from Patriot Academy alumni in bill preparation, and though I follow politics and current events, I still gleaned insights and learned much from those more experienced than I.
What I thought would be easy, turned out to be a challenging and humbling experience. I was thankful for my more experienced peers and group leaders who patiently walked me through the process.
Character & Golf Balls
Though crafting a bill and defending it can seem daunting, and from that experience I learned quite a bit, one of the most important things I learned was white, round, had 332 dimples, and an imprint.
Yes, it was a golf ball.
A golf ball I had to carry with me helped me see more clearly what the quote “be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” really means.
All members of Patriot Academy, even the leaders, such as Mr. Nathan Macias and Mr. Rick Green, were required to hold a golf ball in one hand the entire week of Patriot Academy. The golf ball represented our character, and no one was allowed to set it down, because you hopefully would not want to compromise your true character. The only times we were allowed to set our golf balls down was in the shower, washing our hands, and going to bed.
That meant that ordinary activities like eating, clapping, even holding a book, was made a little more challenging. If someone were to drop or lose their golf ball, they would have to come to the front of the stage, recite a quote from memory, (one popular quote to recite was one from former President Teddy Roosevelt, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace in society.”) and only then would they receive another golf ball.
This exercise was much more than a bunch of teenagers and young adults holding golf balls. It was meant to represent character. Would you set down your character because your hands hurt or you had to carry a load of books? Would you let someone else knock it out of your hand? Though I am a practicing Christian, and consider myself a moral person, I was challenged by the exercise.
Though I loved the symbolism behind it, I sometimes dropped the ball (pun intended). When I felt the embarrassment of clapping with two hands instead of clapping with one hand and a clenched fist, I felt the loss of the ball in a way that painfully reminded me of when I had sinned in my own life. I was so grateful when I was able to walk up on stage and receive a redemptive golf ball. This furthered my determination to hold onto the golf ball through the week, no matter what.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Casey’s experience at Patriot Academy!