This year the national media focused intensely on progressive student activism following the outburst of demonstrations on campuses across the country in November. But conservative student activists were just as organized in 2015 and accomplished a variety of remarkably impressive feats on their campuses.
Check out our list of 9 young conservative student activists who brought REAL change to this country in 2015. They weren’t whining about diversity, inclusion, or safe spaces- they were busy making principled arguments about the future of our nation and innovating new activism ideas to fight for conservative values like Virginia Tech’s YAF’s Funeral for Halloween.
Restoring balance to America’s campuses is a critically important mission. Fortunately, Young America’s Foundation was able to work closely with every single one of these superstar conservative activists in 2015. We’re confident 2016 will be another year of victories for our cause.
YAF activists organize MORE than recruitment tables. YAFers create change. When faced with adversity on their campuses, YAFers don’t just tweet about it, write a blog, or release a statement. They take ACTION to energize and activate as many conservative students as they can to create change on their campuses.
9. Hannah Payne, Unity Christian High School
At 16 years of age, Hannah Payne is one of the country’s most inspiring young conservative women. In April, Hannah’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter hosted a lecture by Rafael Cruz at her high school. Hannah also organized the 9/11 Never Forget Project and Freedom Week, during which she lead her peers in constructing a powerful display to simulate the horrors of the Berlin Wall.
8. Tristan Justice, American University
After Tristan graduated from high school, where he was the founding chair of his campus’ Young Americans for Freedom chapter, he dove into college activism IMMEDIATELY by making national news at his freshmen orientation. When Tristan’s orientation leader asked students to introduce themselves by “gender pronoun,” Fox News and The Drudge Report both covered his experience. Tristan also stood up to the Left after they ripped his pro-life fliers down, another story that made national news.
7. Frank Pray, UNC-Chapel Hill
Frank, a former YAF intern, pushed back against leftists on his campus in 2015 by hosting not one, not two, but THREE big name speakers at UNC. Herman Cain, David Horowitz, and Greg Gutfeld all spoke to big crowds thanks to Frank’s activism. In May, Frank was named one of the country’s top conservative activists at YAF’s Club 100 retreat.
Frank also participated in the 9/11 Never Forget Project in September and was bold enough to stand up to his campus’ liberals and defend the display when it came under criticism.
6. Emily Jashinsky, George Washington University
As chair of GW YAF, Emily told her campus’ student newspaper the chapter would like to be exempt from the school’s proposed mandatory LGBT “sensitivity training.” Her comments set off a firestorm—GW’s LGBT club called Emily’s chapter a “hate group” and said they had “committed an act of violence” against the transgender community. The national media reported extensively on the story, bringing the troubling trend of university-mandated sensitivity trainings to the attention of a wider audience. In a victory for free speech, GW never held the trainings.
Emily and her chapter organized a packed lecture by Senator Rick Santorum with Young America’s Foundation where he responded to the controversy.
She now works at Young America’s Foundation as the program officer for public relations.
5. Jolie Ballantyne, Penn State University
Before graduating from Penn State’s Dickenson School of Law in May, Jolie served as the chair of Penn State YAF where she lead a number of conservative activism initiatives.
Jolie organized a trip to Washington D.C. so members of her chapter could pariticipate in the annual March For Life.
Her chapter also pushed back against leftist narratives during Women’s History Month by plastering campus with fliers challenging their peers to respect all women, not just feminist icons. They capped off the month by hosting a lecture with Bay Buchanan sponsored by Young America’s Foundation.
Jolie also organized “American Dream Week” to celebrate American exceptionalism and counter liberals’ false ideas about our country. Her chapter hosted a lecture by Kirby Wilbur to celebrate the American Dream and help students understand why it’s important.
4. Michael Hensley, University of Tennessee
Michael hosted Allen West to a huge crowd at the University of Tennessee in November, bringing conservative ideas to hundreds of students on his campus.
But that’s not all—he also hosted lectures by conservative powerhouses Stephen Moore and Marc Thiessen. All in 2015! Can you imagine how many students were exposed to new conservative ideas because of Michael’s activism?
Additionally, Michael participated in the 9/11 Never Forget Project and organized a stunning display of flags to help his peers reflect on the 9/11 attacks.
When the University of Tennessee made big news by issuing a guide asking students to use “preferred pronouns” like “ze” and “xyr,” Michael and his chapter pushed back. His team quickly went out on campus and filmed a man-on-the-street video, demonstrating how their fellow students couldn’t even pronounce the new words their university was asking them to use. Fox News host Todd Starnes covered their video.
As you might expect, the chapter was attacked in the wake of their activism. Nevertheless, the school took the pronoun guide down after pressure from YAFers, their fellow students, and community members.
3. Skyler Roundtree, University of Missouri
As head of his campus conservative club at Mizzou, Skyler certainly had an interesting fall semester. But before the infamous Concerned Student 1950 protests broke out, Skyler and his team were already pushing back against Mizzou’s radical liberal activists. After the school’s statue of Thomas Jefferson was vandalized with post-it notes calling him a racist and sexist, Skyler organized a rally to defend the statue, draping President Jefferson in an American flag.
After the protests broke out, Skyler used the materials from YAF’s Free Speech Box to defend First Amendment rights on his campus. Skyler and his club even made it onto The O’Reilly Factor during a Watter’s World segment sporting their YAF free speech shirts.
In a major victory for the First Amendment, Skyler made national news after rushing to organize a lecture by conservative superstar Ben Shapiro with Young America’s Foundation during his club’s trip to the Reagan Ranch fall conference. More than 400 people attended the lecture and an overflow room had to be utilized. A video of the event has garnered nearly half a million views online since it was uploaded.
2. Lauren McCue, Virginia Tech University
You may remember the news story about Lauren’s YAF chapter being defunded by their university for an immigration event they hosted with Bay Buchanan back in 2014. Despite receiving no support from her school, Lauren helped VT YAF accomplish some impressive events in 2015.
Her chapter hosted a lecture by Herman Cain sponsored by YAF challenging the Left to rethink its notion of diversity. She also hosted a YAF sponsored lecture with author and commentator Kate Obenshain who discussed the Left’s war on women.
When her school decided to lecture students on “cultural appropriation” before Halloween, Lauren got creative. Instead of writing a blog to express her anger, she hosted a “Funeral for Halloween,” complete with a casket to demonstrate the ridiculousness of her campus liberals’ PC policing. The story was shared thousands of times on social media.
1. Grant Strobl, University of Michigan
Remember when the University of Michigan canceled a screening of American Sniper? Grant and his YAF chapter lead the charge to hold the school accountable. In 2015 alone, Grant was at the center of a number of national news stories. He’s already been interviewed multiple times on Fox News and by other national outlets. On top of this activism, he hosted great conservative speakers on his campus such as Jonah Goldberg and Deroy Murdock. Grant also organized Freedom Week, No More Che Day, and 9/11 Never Forget activism projects at the University of Michigan. During Freedom Week, he made news by painting his mock Berlin Wall with leftist buzzwords like “micro aggression” and “safe space” and taking a hammer to them. In the wake of this activism, his chapter was smeared by progressive students on campus. Grant stood strong and defended his values.
Despite his young age, Grant is already a member of the Young Americans for Freedom Board of Governors.
We’re beyond proud of every single student on this list. Thanks to all of our activists for their amazing efforts in 2015. Let’s make 2016 even better!