Maggie Holmgren

American Battlefield Trust Announces Members of 2020-2021 Youth Leadership Team

These 15 teens from across the country will spend the next year advocating for historic preservation nationally and in their own communities

Washington, D.C. — After a rigorous selection process and two days of training workshops, members of the American Battlefield Trust's Youth Leadership Team (YLT) have begun their year-long advocacy work, helping share historic preservation philosophies in their own communities. The 15 participants in the 2020–2021 class are ready to engage classmates, neighbors and local decisionmakers by taking on custom-designed projects that pursue preservation and interpretation goals and making a tangible impact in their communities.

“Today’s students are tomorrows historians and community leaders,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “These young people are emerging leaders who have the potential to impact education, preservation and visitations strategy and policy for decades to come. The Trust is proud to support and empower the work of this next generation of preservationists.”

Participants are selected through a competitive application process and successful candidates undergo training in many aspects of the Trust’s mission — from the mechanics of land transactions to the philosophies of place-based education — and in advocacy skills, like interacting with the media and petitioning support from public officials. Trust professional staff work with each student to craft a project to be undertake in their local community, tailored to fit their passions and interests.

By participating in the YLT, Sara Tartek, 16, of Great Neck, N.Y., hopes “to learn the ‘rules of the road’ of lobbying and political advocacy. I hope to learn to communicate a message to both officials and citizens that makes them passionate about an unfamiliar issue. I hope to learn how to bring people with different perspectives together through dialogue that moves us toward a common goal.”

The inaugural YLT class last academic year was wildly successful, leading the program to expand by 50 percent for the upcoming cycle, thanks to a generous grant from the Pipkin Foundation. Also new for 2020–2021: a challenge grant from renowned historical fiction author and former American Battlefield Trust board member Jeff Shaara that will augment the baseline stipend for the best project with a storytelling focus.

“The passion of these young people is tangible,” said Connor Townsend, the Trust's manager of audience development and the YLT project lead. “They are deeply committed to the subject of history — not merely studying it but showcasing its continued relevance and resonance in our modern lives.”

Planned projects for the coming academic year include digital scavenger hunt apps for regional historic sites, infrastructure for physical and digital field trips to battlefields “lost” to the growth of major cities, investigations into War of 1812 “witness trees,” and promoting under-told historical narratives, like those of women, Black soldiers and prisoners of war.

“Battlefields serve as a reminder and tribute to those who lost their lives and to contextualize the American spirit and its creation, transformation, and testing through the history of the nation,” said YLT participant Isaac Leichty, 16, of Lafayette, Ind. “The Trust matters to me because it preserves this rich history and fights for the continued promotion of these sites as places to connect with history and understand the journey of our nation.”

The full roster of the 2020 Youth Leadership Team includes: Benjamin Armus, 16, of Long Beach, N.Y.; Alex Azar, 17, of Bethesda, Md.; Ashley Alarcon, 17, of Estero, Fla.; Ashlyn O’Neill, 17, of Stewartstown, Pa.; Gabriella Gonzales, 15, of Farmington, N.M; Daniel Holt, 18, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Francesca Lanese, 16, of Grove City, Ohio; Isaac Leichty, 16, of Lafayette, Ind.; Kellen Narke, 17, of Phoenixville, Pa.; Andrew Palmer, 17, of Oregon, Wisc.; Sahar Tartak, 16, of Great Neck, N.Y.; Drew Thompson, 18, or Richmond, Va.; Julia Vogt, 17, of Cary, Ill.; Ian Woolridge, 17, of Liberty, Mo; and Tiffany Yeung, 17, of West Lafayette, Ind.

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 52,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at