On Saturday, May 15, more than 100 people attended the 1st Annual Youth Conference hosted by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe at the Dayton Community Center.

Many Dayton High School students and their parents were in attendance, in addition to several from Atascocita and Kingwood ISDs.

The premise of the Youth Conference was to foster the importance of education and encourage young people and their parents that you can do anything as Poe invited a former Astronaut, U.S. Army Colonel, and former NBA basketball player to speak about their life experiences.

Also addressing those in attendance were two high school seniors who are nominated for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Additionally, a guest speaker who is amid service as West Point talked about the importance of education and setting goals.

Poe began the conference with a short introduction and then invited Warren Geary, a Atascocita High School senior and U.S. Military Academy nominee to share his message.

Geary thanked Poe for providing his nomination and stated, Our goals are something that define who we are as people.

After a brief pause, he then stated, My goal in life is be able to achieve something great. I want to be able to serve my country in the best way possible however and whenever they need me. This goal has helped changed my life.

Geary ended his message on the importance of setting goals and how our goals are a commitment to ourselves.

Nicholas Moilanen, a graduating senior from Kingwood High School and soon to be attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, was next to speak.

In addition to getting good grades in school, he spoke of his beneficial experiences earning his Eagle Scout rank and how he also applied himself to learn Mandarin Chinese.

He explained that these experiences and skills enabled him to get accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy and he concluded his messaged by stating, If you enjoy something, you should pursue it yourself. You never know until you try.

Aaron Trobee, the following speaker, graduated from Kingwood High School in 2008 and was nominated by Poe and later was accepted into West Point. He will be graduating from West Point in 2011.

Of his experiences, he stated, Poes nomination has given me the opportunity to experience so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to experience.

Trobee then described West Point and how its main goal is to produce well-rounded leaders that are adaptable and can react positively to their surroundings.

He stated in conclusion, West Point has taught me that if you want something bad enough, theres nothing that anyone can do to stop you from doing it.

Before the next speaker was introduced, Poe gave an interlude message on how, based on the first three speakers, the United States continues to have the best military in the world. Poe stated, We love the military in Southeast Texas and we appreciate your service.

He then addressed all the young people in the audience and encouraged them to serve in the military and offered assistance to help them through that process of joining and serving.

Poe then introduced former astronaut Richard Hieb who described how he grow up in a little town in North Dakota called Jamestown. Hieb stated, I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something that really mattered.

Hieb continued, In America, you can choose to make a difference with your life. I dont know what that is going to lead to be an astronaut? A doctor? A teacher? A lawyer? Whatever it is, you can choose to make a difference. You can really choose to become anything you want to be.

He then described his early high school days and how he chose to do things he really enjoyed pursuing, like math and physics.

From there he made a decision to take a chance to work a summer at the NASA space station in Houston, and from then on, because he had previously pursued math and physics in school, he pursued a higher education and was later given the opportunity to become an astronaut.

He then described his unique experiences in space and encouraged those in the audience to go make a difference.

After Hieb spoke, Poe stated, We want to make sure the space program stays in Houston. After receiving an extended applause, Poe continued, If it wasnt for NASA, there would be so much that we would have never discovered.

U.S. Army Colonel Anthony Landry was then introduced and he began with the topic College-bound with empty pockets.

His message primarily targeted the parents who were attending the conference and how they should become fully integrated in their childrens education and interests from an early age.

In this generation, if you dont have the minimum qualifications for a job, you will not even get hired. The unemployment rate is higher for those without an education, said Landry.

We put a lot of emphasis on sports, but education is what is important. If we parents were to spend more time with their kids with their academics rather than sports, our kids will have the opportunity be able to go farther in life.

Landry then described that there is a lot of money and scholarships out there to pursue, and that students and parents should pursue them early on.

In addition, he also emphasized that he was able to put his children through college without tapping into family funds because he had pursued scholarships and grants that were available.

There are so many ROTC college scholarships out there that are not pursued, thousands of them!, he said.

The final speaker for the event was former NBA basketball player and member of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, Elvin Hayes. In addition to being the co-owner of a former car dealership in Liberty, Hayes is also a Liberty County reserve deputy sheriff.

Hayes began his message by stating three things that he believes helped him become successful: Hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.

He then described that he did not own a pair of shoes until he was in the ninth grade and that the first pair of shoes he did own were in fact a pair he found in the gym trash can that he then taped on his feet; these were the shoes with which he began to play basketball.

Everything I have accomplished in life has been with these three things: hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. After describing his hard life at home when he was young, his time playing as NBA basketball player, and the many successful business ventures, he firmly reiterated his lifes motto.