Sixteen-year-old rising Wilton High School junior Grant Jones was selected to participate in the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security’s Diplomacy, Intelligence & Defense program in Washington, D.C.

Grant, who aspires to one day have a career in national intelligence and defense, flew to the nation’s capitol on July 9, and spent a week learning about national agencies and their respective roles in keeping the United States safe.

“The program was amazing,” Grant told The Bulletin after his trip.

Grant said he’s always been “fascinated” by the United States Military and the program gave him “a fantastic insight as to the finer details and ongoings of the U.S. government on the standpoint of maintaining our national security.”

“The fact that fighting and putting your life on the line for the safety of one’s nation is one of the most honorable careers to do, and has always seemed like something that could be an option for me,” he said.

Grant said he “greatly enjoys the cerebral side of warfare and government ongoings.”

“Using subterfuge, espionage, as well as being able to determine which decision would create the best ends and means to a goal, is an amazing skill set to have,” he said.

Through the program, Grant not only had the opportunity to engage in panel discussions with top military, intelligence and diplomacy leaders, but was also assigned to a national crisis simulation and had to design an action plan and lead a team of peers in problem solving.

“During the simulation, we were given a scenario based on the Latin America drug superhighway,” said Grant.

“Personally, I took on the role of the White House correspondent and it was my job to gather information on the ongoings of the executives, as well as intelligence directors, legislative leaders and defensive officials.”

Grant said he received “an incredible understanding as to how hard it for the media to gather information and send it to the public when most of the time all you hear is, ‘No comment.’”

The most challenging aspect of the simulation, Grant said, was the lack of information distribution.

“For example, he said, “the media would have knowledge of some things before some areas of the government did simply because they had not been notified yet — and that ended up causing a major problem in the understanding of what exactly was happening.”

Grant and other participating students also made security stops at the Pentagon, White House, CIA and U.S. Naval Academy.

On the last full day of the program, Grant said, “we took a day trip to the Smithsonian mall and were given the opportunity to explore world history in an incredibly detailed way across many fields,” including art, aeronautics, biology, civilization and technology.

Later that day, the group went on the trail that took them through four major memorials — the National World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

“Experiencing those memorials, and having the brutality of war put right before your eyes — it’s life changing,” said Grant.

“The way that each memorial is so different, beautifully designed and so heart-wrenching gives you such an appreciation for everything that we have.”

Click here to learn more about the program.