By Julie Tomascik

A week of free enterprise discussions and leadership training during Texas Farm Bureau’s (TFB) Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) equipped high school students with the tools they need to travel the road of excellence.

“A growing Texas demands strong leaders,” Dakota Fleming, TFB associate director of Urban and Educational Outreach, said. “Cultivating those skills starts now, and YLC helps students get excited about their future, our economic system and the Constitution.”

The weeklong conference, which was held June 10-14 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, introduced students to new friends and new concepts.

Throughout the week, nearly 300 students developed and honed their leadership skills, while also learning about constitutional government, business professionalism and the free enterprise system.

The skill sets students learn at YLC can be used in their classrooms as they finish high school, through college and as they pursue professional careers, Fleming said.

“The in-depth look at our economic system, goal-setting activities and introduction to businesses can help students at any level. YLC is an opportunity to learn more information and take part in different activities that will shape their future,” she said. “Patriotism, strong economics and responsibility built the country, and we expanded on those topics during the week. It’s essential to know where we come from in order to move forward and grow.”

For more than 50 years, YLC has brought students together from all across the Lone Star State, creating lifelong friends and developing future leaders.

“The schedule was intense,” Fleming said. “But students still find time to have fun and make new friends. It’s a week of education and fun—the recipe of a good learning experience.”

During the week, students from 115 counties across Texas were divided into teams to develop a business plan. They had to present their ideas to their peers during the conference.

“Presenting your team’s business plan in front of hundreds of your peers can be tough, but the students learned more about their strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve,” Bryce Moore, TFB associate director of Field Operations and YLC coordinator, said. “Speaking in front of a group can be intimidating, but YLC gives students a way to practice and build their confidence in themselves.”

In addition to their business plan meetings, students heard from motivational speakers and attended breakout sessions. Topics included public speaking, money management and congressional insights.

“Through the congressional insights workshop, YLC participants learned what it’s like to be a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Moore said. “They had to serve constituents, understand committee issues, run re-election campaigns, work to gain favor within their party and more. It gives them a better idea of what it’s like to be a politician.”

Industry experts brought the various lessons to life throughout the week, as they demonstrated examples in their areas of expertise.

“The week is a combination of learning and fun,” Moore said. “Students learn more about teamwork, form new friendships and take back skills and knowledge that they can apply at any level of education or real world experience.”

Since 1963, more than 15,000 students have attended the conference.

Students who are Farm Bureau members and attended YLC are eligible to apply for a college scholarship and are able to participate in the Free Enterprise Speech Contest this fall.

For more information about the Free Enterprise Speech contest, visit