NEXT: A New Century was an amazing event that I attended at Indiana University this past summer along with about 1,000 other arrowmen who are the new and upcoming leaders of our Order. It was a training/briefing on how to help bring our lodges into the next century as well as innovating for a brighter tomorrow.

Personally, I had a lot of fun at the event and I thought the design and flow of it was ingenious. On the first day, we were introduced to our crews (about 15 arrowmen from lodges across the country and a crew guide carefully selected by the conference planners) that we would work with and bond with throughout the entire conference. These would be the people that I would travel to every class with as well as eat every meal with. We quickly broke the ice and became great friends and I am still talking to my new friends today. We learned how to work well and efficiently as a team in each class we attended in order to be successful. These crews also helped me gather different ideas, opinions, and thoughts about innovating in my lodge and section as well as many more across the nation. This proved very useful as I came back and began to implement some of these concepts in my own lodge. Each day also had a theme (innovation, membership, or program, respectively) in which the classes would focus on. I learned how and why we need to keep innovating in our Order to keep it going and continue to be successful. I also learned why membership and program are both key factors to the Order’s success over the next century. At the end of each day, we also had an arena show that would focus on each day’s theme. I really enjoyed the guest speakers and presentations that they had organized for us, and they proved to be very helpful in getting their points across. The closing show was also a lot of fun and I loved the presentation that they had at the end! It was an awesome light show with some of everyone’s favorite songs, such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Overall, I think the NEXT: A New Century was a tremendous event that was tons of fun and definitely ensured that the Order of the Arrow would continue to innovate and be successful in fulfilling it’s mission and purpose.

At this conference, there were definitely plenty of things to keep busy with. Some of my favorites were patch trading, watching the NEXT Factor, walking around hunting for Pokémon with my crew, and getting to meet some of the national officers on a more personal level and hold a conversation with them. Patch trading has always been a very big thing at national scouting events, and NEXT was no exception. There were always people set up outside of the trading post with their lodge’s latest flaps. Some lodges even produced a special PRISM/NEXT flap. I also enjoyed collecting some of the national officers’s special flaps after meeting and conversing with them a little bit. Another awesome part of the conference was a daily showing of the NEXT Factor. On the NEXT Factor, the region chiefs would select an idea submitted by a lodge from somewhere in the country that they thought was innovative and have them come up and present it to a roomful of arrowmen. After seeing all the presentations, they would have the arrowmen in the audience go online and vote. Then, after tallying up all the votes, they would present the winner with $500 to help jumpstart this innovative idea in their lodge. I thought this was a great concept because it allowed for arrowmen across the country to present great ideas to other arrowmen and have them funded so that their lodge may continue to be innovative. The next aspect at NEXT I greatly enjoyed is probably something everybody has heard of as the application has quickly swept the nation: Pokémon Go. My crew, among many others, would walk around as a group having fun, cracking jokes, and hunting for Pokémon. For those who don’t know, this app is designed so that you have to walk around with the app open to hunt for Pokémon, hatch Pokémon eggs, and collect supplies to help your endeavors. You can also go with a group of people and attack a gym while trying to take it over. It definitely kept my crew active and busy during our free time and served as a great way for us to bond. At the closing show of the conference, the presentation also included a comparison between national officers and Pokémon. I definitely enjoyed seeing that. Last, but definitely not least, I really enjoyed being able to meet with and talk to all the national officers and advisers on a more personal level. For those of you who attended the NOAC at Michigan State University last year, you probably remember everybody chasing down the national officers wanting patches and sash signatures (I was definitely no exception). However, NEXT was very different from this. It was smaller which made it easier to talk to each national officer on a personal level for 5 – 10 minutes and actually getting to know them a little bit. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the 2016 National Chief, Hunter Jones, and how he came to be who he is today.

Just like many other arrowmen, I attended this event because I was selected by my lodge chief as I am a lodge officer and a potential upcoming lodge chief. For this event, every lodge was allowed to bring three youth and two advisers. Typically, it was the lodge chief, a lodge officer, and a new arrowman who has potential to be a leader in the chapter or lodge. My lodge has 4 other officers, besides the chief, and my chief saw the most potential in me so he selected me to accompany him to NEXT. I also attended because I am extremely enthusiastic about the OA and I love learning more and more about it.

Overall, this conference definitely exceeded my expectations and was better and more valuable than I ever thought it could be. It has briefed me on how to help my lodge push into the next century and continue to be innovative to ensure the success of our Order. If we focus on innovation, membership, and program, then we will definitely continue to be successful in our mission and purpose. This conference was also a large amount of fun and I absolutely made friends and memories for life. It was a great experience and the event was a huge success.