Elkins High School Freshman Dakota Pritt was selected for the trip of a lifetime. He was hand-picked to attend the National Young Leaders Inaugural Conference in Washington, DC.
The five-day adventure offered Pritt the opportunity for many new and exciting learning experiences.
"I learned about politics, government and leadership, as well as getting to meet students from across the United States and the world," Pritt said. "It was also the first time I ever flew, and I do not care to ever fly again."
The conference included more than 2,000 participants from around the globe. They attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama, visited the National Art Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Aviation Museum and many other historic sites.
Another exhibit Pritt said he enjoyed dealt with the space shuttle.
"There was a retired space shuttle in the museum as well as one of the Wright Brothers' airplanes."
Pritt said he experienced lots of new things, and some of those were out of his comfort zone.
"The amounts of people everywhere we traveled was overwhelming for a small-town boy," Pritt said. "I learned to be more tolerant and worked to be more cooperative with others. It also was hard to be out the door by 6 a.m. and to bed at midnight. It made for very long days."
"As a group, we grew close together on our trip and experienced new things together. I really liked touring the museums and made great new friends. We still keep in touch and send text messages to one another."
Although Pritt's group did not get to meet the president, they were on the mall and could hear the his inaugural address.
"President Obama is a great speaker and being in Washington is not something most people get to due during the inauguration," Pritt said."
While in Washington, Pritt stayed at the Hotel Gaylord International Resort.
"It was huge, with dozens of conference rooms and was 20 stories high. The atrium was filled with shops, and illuminated banners hung from the ceilings. The view from the atrium looked out over the harbor and straight into DC."
Pritt said he was nominated while at Elkins Middle School to take part in the National Young Leaders State Conference. Alumni from the program are invited to come back and take part while in high school and college.
"I will probably go back again," Pritt said. "The next conference will be an exclusive, historical tour of the Washington area. I would like to visit the Smithsonian National History Museum."
Pritt's mother, Elizabeth, said she is glad he went because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It was very hard to put him on a plane in Clarksburg and send him alone to Washington," Elizabeth Pritt said.
During Pritt's return home, he asked one of the attendants at Dulles Airport which gate he needed to be in to board his flight home.
"They looked at my boarding pass and sent me to the gate," Pritt said. "I was in line and was getting ready to give them my pass and board. Someone said something about going to Tokyo, so I asked if the plane was going to Tokyo and found out it was."
Pritt explained his boarding pass had another one stuck with his. Had he boarded the plane, he would have been on a 27 hour flight to Tokyo. He said he found the correct gate and flight and landed safely in Clarksburg.
"I think next time I go, I will defiantly have someone drive me," Pritt said. "No more flying."