Youth Leadership Team 2021-2022

LaVita Photography

The American Battlefield Trust is excited to introduce our third Youth Leadership Team! 

The American Battlefield Trust Youth Leadership Team (YLT) is a rotating group of 10-14 young people, aged 15-18, who serve as the youth face and voice of the American Battlefield Trust. Youth Leadership Team members are required to become experts on the Trust’s mission, history, and media talking points, participate in a youth Lobby Day and create preservation, education, or visitation projects in their local communities over the course of one year. 

By supporting this group of motivated young leaders, we hope to create a ripple effect for battlefield preservation, visitation, history education in our nation. Our goal is for young people to connect and empower each other to create change within their own schools and communities. 

Hank Thompson, Richmond, VA

Stephanie Dennehy

Hank seeks to organize the construction of signage and revitalization of sites associated with the controversial 1864 Dahlgren raid on Richmond, Virginia. It is a little-known event in Civil War history, oftentimes only a footnote, yet he finds it to be one of the most fascinating events of the war. It was a cavalry raid, led by daring Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, whose goal was to free 13,000 Union prisoners of war held at Belle Isle.

“My interest in history originated from me spending time with my grandparents. On my mother's side, I spent much of my time in Yorktown, Virginia, visiting museums and historical sites, including the Yorktown battlefield, one of my personal favorites. On my father's side, I spent a lot of time on my grandparent's Civil War era farm. After the war, it served as a lodge for soldiers making the trek home from Appomattox. Both experiences played a key role in fostering a lifelong love for history, which has only grown stronger by living in the heart of Civil War history, Richmond, Virginia.” 

Catherine Slavich, Lanett, AL

Loran Cook Photography

Catherine seeks to search for additional funding for the Fort Tyler marker project. Not only
is the site historic, but it also serves as a place for families to explore and for people to walk their dogs. Replacing the markers will ensure that generations to come will know and better understand the sacrifices of those who fought for our country. Catherine also competed for the title of Miss Georgia this Summer and made historic preservation part of her platform. 

“My house is historic and my family has a military background and I have basically lived in history my whole life.” 

Joseph Candelas, Harker Heights, TX

Justin Borja

Joseph plans on creating a ten-segment program focusing on the events leading up to the revolution, individual years of the revolution, and the impact of the revolution, which will be taught in person, in recorded lectures, and with a podcast. 

“I am excited to be part of this program because, having grown up in Texas where battlefields are few and far between, I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like for youth who take an interest in history to be unable to visit battlefields, and thus be limited on how they can foster their passion for history. I hope that by being a member of the Youth Leadership Team, I can help to ensure future generations will have the opportunities I missed out on.” 

Sydney Kirages, Lake Forest, IL

Lavita Photography

Sydney is actively writing a children’s book geared towards elementary students about women who discussed themselves as men to fight in the Civil War.  The book will include QR codes to the American Battlefield Trust website, specifically the page dedicated to the woman featured, the battle or battles she fought in, and any videos or other significant information relative to her activities.  

“My love for US History came from traveling to battlefields with my parents and grandparents.  History comes alive when it is experienced.  If the lands are not preserved, they will not be there to educate the next generation.  Working to preserve the lands, and educating others about what happened there and why it matters is an admirable goal that is consistent with my belief that the best way to learn history is to see where it happened, walk in the footsteps of the past, and talk to those that work tirelessly to preserve it.”

Justin Chung, Anaheim, CA

Juliet Peel

Justin’s capstone project revolves around educating younger audiences through producing virtual content to advocate for battlefield preservation. All while reaching out to popular content creators in hopes of expanding the mission of the American Battlefield Trust. 

“I'm excited to be part of this program because it offers an opportunity like no other history-related program. Unlike costly college-related educational programs, the American Battlefield Youth Leadership Team provides funded engaging and unique activities. Most importantly, the program connects me with a community comprised of fellow youth participants that share the same interest in history as I do.” 

Olivia Bucs, Columbus, NJ

Pierini Portraits

Olivia is exploring a preservation project on Petticoat Bridge road in an effort to protect Burlington County’s rich Revolutionary War history. There have already been significant strides made to preserve this battlefield site. With the help of local officials, the community, and the American Battlefield Trust, Petticoat Bridge will be out of danger of further development. Hopefully, it will be turned into a local park with interpretive signs about both the watershed there and the Revolutionary War significance. 

“Membership in the Youth Leadership Team plays a large part in my life. I have always enjoyed history, specifically American Revolution History. I enjoy hearing the story of our country and the lives of others who lived and formed it to what it is today. I specifically love that era because of how new our country was. The decisions our Founding Fathers made are still impacting our lives. American history fills me with joy and patriotism.” 

Sean Myers, Church Point, LA

Lauren Kylie

Sean seeks to make video content interviewing people reenacting Civil War and Revolutionary War figures, especially those from Louisiana. These can be used to help students create a deeper connection with these figures as they learn about them in school.

“We are seeing a dramatic downward spiral among young people when it comes to their knowledge and interest in history, and I want to work towards cutting that statistic completely. History is both how we learn about the past, but move forward into our future, and I hope that my time with the American Battlefield Trust will not only leave a lasting effect on those around me but will also inspire those to learn from the past for a great future!” 

Stephanie Wang, Katy, TX

Mariana Lizet

Stephanie plans on creating a project-based curriculum with lesson plans and presentations that introduce to our youth the forgotten stories of America’s heroes during the Civil War.

“To me, historic preservation is a way to pass on the generations of rich American history. Walking on the hallowed ground where soldiers fought and died is an experience unlike any other. Battlefields serve as a reminder of the bloodshed that paved the way for the freedoms we hold dear today.”

William Whitworth, Ashburn, VA

Sarah Achten

William hopes to focus on bringing these lesser-known stories to life. The spies, the soldiers, and the ordinary people who lived through the war and the partisan fighting here in the DC Metro Area. he will accomplish this by giving tours, and by creating online content for school children to learn about these stories and smaller local sites in the region.

“The American Battlefield Trust is important to me because it gave me the tools to learn about our nation's history. I want to become part of the organization to help give other people the same opportunities as I had to learn about the history and walk the land where it happened.” 

Alexis Ellis, St. Rose, LA

Rea Flowers

Alexis’s capstone project will follow the life of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Originally she wanted to take a field trip to New Orleans (the area Sarah Wakeman was stationed and died) and follow a scavenger hunt that will essentially be like the “day in the life” of one of our nation’s most prominent heroes. Due to a rise in the Delta COVID strain, Alexis will most likely be taking this concept to a virtual platform as a virtual field trip. 

“The atmosphere of our program is like no other. Not only am I working alongside peers from all across the nation who are so supportive of my capstone project but I also have mentors through this program who have educated me on the history of the Trust and how I can carry out the Trust’s message to my area.”  

Joseph Martin, Richmond, MO

Melinda Macey

Joseph intends to create, for use as a classroom curriculum, a set of 25-30 profiles of individuals who experienced the Border War in Kansas and Missouri. These profiles will be tailored towards middle schoolers, with a focus on creating an individual and personal connection to local history.

“To me historic preservation is a way to teach history in a more engaging and personal format than just by reading words on a page. In my opinion, history becomes much more interesting and is better understood when artifacts or locations are preserved and used in education.” 

Abbie Hasty, Alton, IL

Sally Grieshaber

Apply hopes to connect her community to the history of the Alton Prison. She would like to create an interactive website that bridges the gap between the average person in my community and the available historical documents that can be difficult to read and hard to access. It would include transcriptions of documents, old photographs and diagrams along with the stories of the soldiers and their families."

“I am fortunate to have a family that has instilled in me the desire to not just learn about but also preserve history – whether that is our own family history or significant times and places in our national history. Being a part of the Youth Leadership Team would give me the opportunity to take a more active role in preservation, which I believe is our responsibility.” 

Rory Moran, Davidson, NC

Kathleen Martin

Rory seeks to raise awareness for sites within a day's travels of his hometown. This will be accomplished by forming a partnership with the local public library and informing their visitors about these battlefields. Additionally, he is fortunate enough to live in the town of Davidson, where Davidson College is located. This will give him the opportunity to work with some of their history professors and professionals to orchestrate volunteer opportunities where members of my community would visit local battlefields under the guidance of these professors. This would allow the public to have access to untapped knowledge from experts at the top of their field while enjoying the benefits of nature.

“To me, historic preservation is a way to honor and remember the sacrifice that American soldiers have made throughout history to preserve our lives, liberty, and values.” 

Rachael Walters, Brunswick, GA

Tamara Gibson

Rachael hopes to pursue research and an archeological project on local Revolutionary War battlefields. Her goal is to increase the understanding of the battles by finding artifacts or mapping out the site. 

“To me, historic preservation ignites people's love for the past. It's so fun when you see a little kid, or even an adult, amazed at a historical site or an artifact. It's engaging! It brings back history to life, almost like a time machine, showing us our unique past and hopefully the understanding to preserve it.”