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    By: Nathan Brand, Hillsdale College

    Brand2Since high school, I have been blessed to be involved with Young America's Foundation. The Foundation has allowed me to have a greater influence with my peers, to grow as a leader, and to build friendships with students and conservative leaders across the nation. More than anything though, my time with Young America's Foundation has given me great purpose for my time in college.

    I had no idea what to expect when I walked into my first conference as a sophomore in high school. A friend and frequent Foundation speaker, Kirby Wilbur, told me about the Young America's Foundation National High School Leadership Conference. He told me that it was an awesome conservative conference full of like-minded students from all over the country. I was sold! With not knowing what to anticipate, I remember splurging at Nordstrom to buy a sport coat for the conference, telling the salesman "I might be meeting the President." Although he set me up with a very nice sports coat, I never did meet the President. Instead, I got to engage first-hand with dozens of conservative leaders and make friendships that have lasted throughout the years! That was the first of the ten Foundation conferences I have been to since getting involved.

    I knew I was a conservative before I attended any of the Foundation conferences, but the conferences have turned me from a conservative on the sidelines to a conservative in the game.

    During my senior year of high school, I organized the 9/11: Never Forget Project. The experience of putting together the event and watching the impact it had on people in my community was amazing! Along with the thousands of people who saw the flag display, two local papers ran stories on my project and the local FOX TV affiliate ran a segment on it. This was just the start of my long and fruitful journey with the Foundation.

    After high school, I went on to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan. Looking to stay in the political arena, I quickly realized none of the groups on campus were truly active or looking to make a real difference in the lives of their peers. Fortunately, I knew about a fantastic organization that had the resources and tools to help me make an impact on my campus: Young Americans for Freedom, the Foundation's chapter affiliate.

    Hillsdale College is different than any other college in the country. We are continually ranked as one of the most conservative schools in the country. Just to give you an idea of what that means, we have a statue of Ronald Reagan and an even bigger statue of Margaret Thatcher in the quad on our campus. So our club's purpose was not about taking on a liberal campus and liberal administrators, but rather fighting student apathy.

    Brand3I started the Hillsdale Young Americans for Freedom chapter with the help of just a couple of friends. Starting with no money and very few members, we had a long way to go to make a real impact. Thanks to the generous support of the Foundation, our YAF chapter was able to bring syndicated talk show host Michael Medved to campus for our first event. The event turned out over 200 people, more than one tenth of our campus! Next thing you know, Hillsdale YAF became the coolest club on campus.

    Since our club's founding, we have done numerous activist events including No More Che Day, Freedom Week, National School Choice Week, and many more events. Among them, we brought author and columnist Katie Pavlich to campus to speak about the importance of the 2nd Amendment. We were also fortunate enough to take her out to our school's gun range.

    With every event we have hosted, the Foundation has been at our side supporting our chapter. From boxes of posters and banners to phone calls with Young Americans for Freedom Executive Director Patrick Coyle, the Foundation has given us their unwavering support. With the Foundation's resources, being a conservative activist has never been easier.

    Our YAF chapter has opened doors for many of my fellow Hillsdale YAF peers. Because of their work on spreading the conservative message, Hillsdale YAF members have landed internships with congressmen, the NRA, Conservative Movement organizations, and even with Young America's Foundation. Along with opportunities opened up outside of campus, students have been able to network with conservative leaders that will continue to provide opportunities for years to come.

    I would strongly encourage any conservative student to start a YAF chapter on their college campus. I guarantee it will be personally rewarding and you will be amazed by the impact you will have on your peers. So get off the sideline, get your butt off the bench, and start promoting the conservative cause, because our generation is the best hope of taking back our college campuses and taking back our country.

    *Nathan is rising junior and the chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Hillsdale College.

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