More than ever, outdoors sportsmen's and conservation clubs and organizations are providing programs especially designed for youth. Just as important as learning outdoors activities, however, is learning how to protect the rights to enjoy them.

That is where the National Rifle Association-sponsored Youth Education Summit program steps in to provide high school sophomores and juniors with a program that provides them with the opportunity to gain a hands-on education of the history of Pennsylvania and the democratic process. According to Pennsylvania YES coordinator Janet Nyce, the program is specifically designed to accomplish important educational objectives through carefully designed activities.

Students will develop valuable communication, public speaking and debate skills. In addition, they will develop an awareness and desire to participate in all levels of government, an appreciation and knowledge of the history and unique heritage of Pennsylvania, an understanding of volunteer networks and how young citizens can serve their communities and an understanding of the history, mission and programs of the NRA.

Applications to participate in this year's Pennsylvania YES program will be accepted until Tuesday, Feb. 15, and must be mailed to chairman Charlie Fox at RR 3, Box 445, Troy 16947. This year's program will be held in Harrisburg, beginning Thursday, March 31, when participants attend an evening orientation program. Activities continued throughout the weekend, with participants departing the afternoon of Monday, April 4.

"Pennsylvania YES welcomes applicants from all backgrounds who are currently in their sophomore or junior year in high school, and who are in good academic standing, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher," Nyce said. "Students interested in applying should also have strong interests in American government, history, the legislative process and the role and mission of the NRA.

"Students spend a strenuous weekend, and a typical day will go from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and will include a lot of walking. Participants will be required to take part in all Pennsylvania YES activities, and because they come from all over the Commonwealth, it's a great opportunity to meet new friends through this opportunity."

Perspective students are required to complete the Pennsylvania YES application form, which can be downloaded from the Friends of NRA website at www.friendsofnra.org . In addition, they are required to write an original essay, submit transcripts of their last two academic school years and include three recommendation forms that have been filled out by appropriate members of the community.

"Pennsylvania YES provides students with the opportunity to see their state capital and obtain a rare, hands-on, learning experience that will enhance their understanding of Pennsylvania's democratic process," Nyce said. "They have the opportunity to meet people who shape policy and make laws that affect millions of people.

"They learn how to get more involved in government, as well as learn of the numerous ways to make a difference on the local and national levels and learn effective leadership skills that will make them stand out from your peers. It also provides them with the opportunity to meet other students like themselves from all over the state and form friendships that will last a lifetime.

"YES allows students to gain fresh insights from new friends and peers, and part of the curriculum is group discussion on various subjects learned throughout each day and learn how other students interpret the same information differently and why. Academic skills are developed through briefings on current political issues, communicating thoughts and ideas to others, public speaking and debating."

Pennsylvania YES is fully funded, and students are met upon their arrival in Harrisburg by NRA staff or volunteers and escorted to the appropriate activities. Participants are chaperoned at all times.

For more information on Pennsylvania YES, contact Janet Nyce at 215-234-0330 or huntressjdn@verizon.net, Charlie or Ursula Fox at 570-297-4642 or eef@epix.net, or NRA Eastern Pennsylvania field representative Kory Enck at 717-689-3200 or kenck@nrahq.org.