by Ashley Stokes
2018–2019 National TSA Sergeant-at-Arms
I remember nothing from my first National TSA Conference in 2003. I was 18-months old, so this isn’t exactly surprising. I do, however, remember bits and pieces of every National TSA Conference I attended after that.
The 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 conferences often blend together for me. I remember that I loved going to the TSA Meet and Greet, because as a small child you could get something from every booth. I collected buttons, pins, business cards, wristbands, flyers, and once I even got an American flag. If you had asked me why all these students came to the National TSA Conference I would have told you that they were there to elect the new national TSA officer team. I genuinely thought that every TSA member wanted to be a state or national officer, because those were the people my dad introduced me to.
In 2013, my brother, Steven, ran for national TSA office for the first time. I was struck by the fact that some of the members were just a year older than me. This conference was the first time that I realized that my membership in TSA was not a far-off dream, but a close reality.
The 2014 National TSA Conference was an interesting experience for me. I was the only one from my chapter to attend the conference, but I had a chapter. Instead of having the same light blue guest ribbon on my name tag, I had a yellow ribbon that said “Member.” Along with that, Steven ran for national office again (and this time he won). Despite the fact that I competed at this conference, I still had not fully grasped the importance of competitive events.
The 2015, 2016, and 2017 conferences showed me that events were kind of a big deal. I was a national finalist in multiple events, and I even won first in System Control Technology at the 2016 National TSA Conference. My favorite thing to do was still not competing. I loved to go out into the most populated area of the conference and find people to talk to. I loved making new friends and catching up with old ones. Along with meeting people, the business meeting became a staple of my National TSA Conference experience. At the 2016 conference, I got to debate on the motto change amendment, which was the first bylaw amendment to pass in about a decade.
The 2018 National TSA Conference was surreal. I finally got to run for national office. Meeting people became easier than ever, and the TSA Meet and Greet once again became one of my favorite parts of the conference. The child in me that collected all of those campaign items was practically jumping for joy.
The National TSA Conference has something for everyone. Whether you are there to win events, make new friends, elect a new national officer team, or all of the above, the 2019 National TSA Conference will not disappoint. Trust me, I’m something of an expert.