BBYO hosted its most recent International Convention (IC) from February 15 to 19, 2018. BBYO members have anticipated this convention since returning home from the 2017 convention in Dallas. Around 5,000 attendees travelled from places near and far. While the majority of the teenagers who attended IC live in America, others came from countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, Turkey, Ecuador, Israel and more.
Many speakers came throughout the weekend to impart their knowledge and past experiences on the high schoolers. Guests included Scott Rogowski, the host of app/gameshow HQ. In addition, Aly Raisman and Abby Wambach, well known female athletes, shared some words of wisdom. Finally, Josh Peck, formerly Josh in “Drake and Josh,” spoke about not letting anything stop him and his experience with acting. The doors to his speech were shut as the maximum capacity was filled and exceeded.
Due to the high level of interest, registration began in October of 2017, four months in advance. Some teens even signed up for pre-summits, meaning they could arrive in Orlando a day or two in advance for specialized programing. On the first day of the convention (Thursday), teens arrived all throughout the day. Busses and staff transported them to the Hyatt Regency Orlando where they went through security, received name tags, and made their way to their hotel rooms. Thursday was filled with excited shrieks from friends reuniting after months of being apart. That evening included the much-anticipated opening ceremony, for which each region dressed up in matching shirts and accessories.
Friday was spent as a day of leadership. Teens were assigned to one of over 40 leadership “labs,” many of which involved travelling to different places around Orlando. Weber student Zach Miller said, “my leadership lab was called Speak Up on Campus. We went to Hillel at UCF and talked about different things you could do to advocate for Israel. It was really cool!” Liana Slomka reported, “my leadership lab was with some guys who have sustainable food companies. One of them makes tea from some leaves in Ecuador in order to bring business to the villages there and the other guy makes snacks out of bananas that don’t make it to the stores. I thought it was very interesting.” Friday night provided a delicious shabbat dinner along with special songs that were used at BBYO summer programs.
On Shabbat, teens are not allowed to leave the hotel. Speakers were stationed throughout the hotel providing anecdotes and giving examples of how they have made impacts on the world. Some BBYO chapters were able to host programs that they had created for other members of BBYO to experience. On Saturday evening after Havdalah, buses took all of the members of the convention to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. The high schoolers were given a few hours to go on rides, eat dinner and spend time with their friends in Jurassic Park, Harry Potter World, Dr. Seuss World and more.
Not only was IC an educational and spiritual experience for many, it also served as a fun and exciting weekend. On Thursday night, following the opening ceremonies, the popular band AJR performed. The band got the teenagers on their feet dancing and singing along to hit songs. Three more artists arrived and performed on Sunday night. This concert began with a set from Daya singing her hit songs “Sit Still Look Pretty,” “Don’t Let me Down” and more. Next, the much anticipated Fetty Wap took the stage. As Weber junior Zach Reisman exclaimed, “I think my friends and I were most excited for Fetty. He is such a great performer and we all knew he would be amazing! He definitely lived up to our expectations.” Steve Aoki closed out the night with a set of upbeat songs that had the entire crowd jumping up and down. He even brought a few lucky high schoolers onstage and threw cake into the crowd, so that when the concert was over, the teens were covered in icing and sprinkles.
BBYO is usually split into boys’ and girls’ chapters, and each chapter has a board of around 8 members. Each chapter board includes a Gadol/N’siah (president), Sigan/Siganit (vice president of programming), Moreh/Morah (vice president of recruitment), Mazkir/Mazkirah (secretary), Gizbor/Gizborit (treasurer), Shaliach/Shlicha (vice president of Judaism), Safron-Oreach/Safronit-Orechet (marketing and Mekasher/Mekasheret (eighth grade recruitment).
Many Weber students participated in the convention, each anticipating different aspects. Junior Zack Miller stated “I went to see all my friends from camp the past two years. It is also really cool to be apart of the largest gathering of Jewish teens ever!”, while freshman Haily Rubin said, “what inspired me to go to IC was seeing all the cool posts and hearing all the fun stuff about it, and also a ton of my out of town camp friends who I don’t see were going so I wanted to see them.” Isaac Goldman also credited attending International Convention to wanting to see his camp friends. Freshman Sammy Rubin was extremely happy that he attended. Sammy said, “people hyped up the convention when I asked them about it. They told me that I would regret it if I didn’t choose to go. I now see why they were saying such amazing things about it. I had a very fun time.”
While IC is one of BBYO’s main conventions, many people who attend are not active members of BBYO. Isaac Goldman said that he is “not active in BBYO.” He has “not been on [his] chapter or regional board.” Contrarily, Zack Miller is very active in BBYO and attended the convention. He exclaimed, “I am currently serving as my chapter’s president, and last year, I served as my chapter’s Vice President of Recruitment.”
Overall, all of the interviewees are planning on attending IC again next year as Haily Rubin said that it was, “the second best time of [her] life.”
This weekend lived up to the expectations of BBYO members nationwide. Now, the countdown to Denver 2019 begins.