4 days. 800 participants. 209 high schools.
This year’s High School Conference at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara featured 4 days of conservative speakers, activism training, and networking for the hundreds of students in attendance.
Students had the opportunity to hear from Ben Shapiro, Michael Knowles, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Liz Wheeler, and many more at the conference- and it’s safe to say they were a big hit.
“I loved Rachel- she’s like the female version of Ben Shapiro!” said Natalie Ervin from Justin-Siena High School.
Jonathan Short, a student at Yorktown High School, said Burt Folsom was his favorite speaker. “He balanced energy and passion for the Conservative Movement with a vast knowledge of history that a lot of people don’t know about. I appreciate the unique opportunity to ask questions to all of the speakers- you can’t really find that anywhere else,” he added.
Other students had very limited exposure to conservative ideas before this conference.
“I’ve never really been exposed to conservatism in my liberal hometown- it’s so refreshing to see people who share the same values and beliefs as me,” Sophia Clemente from Saint Francis High School said. She recommends YAFCon “1000 percent” to any conservative, noting the resources and people available to help you promote conservatism.
Ben Shapiro opened the first night of the conference at the evening banquet. He gave advice to the future conservative leaders in the room, encouraging them to “find people who give you advice but not who find revelry in tearing you down.” He also emphasized the importance of attending this YAF conference, noting that once you the liberal college environment, “if you’re not set in your conservative ways, there’s a good chance you’ll be turned to the dark side.”
Fox News’s Todd Starnes spoke on the importance of religious freedom and encouraged students to fight for the values conservatives hold dear. “It’s time for every gun-toting, bible-clinging, deplorable American to take a thunderous stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
“YAFCon opens your mind up about ideas and you strengthen your conservative intellect. I can talk about socialism and capitalism more in-depth to counter my liberal friends,” Ava Von Lipinski from Beverly Hills High School said.
YAF equips students with the tools necessary to fight back against liberal teachers and administrators pushing the Left’s agenda- an ever-pressing issue in today’s academic world.
Two student activists from Lake Forest High School have faced backlash from teachers and administrators at their Illinois school for attempting to start a Young Americans for Freedom chapter. These students attended YAFCon to arm themselves with a deeper knowledge of conservatism, and to be prepared to stand firm against the pressure they have been facing.
“Because of all the liberal bias and backlash our YAF chapter faced, we wanted to come and learn how to handle things, and be able to promote conservatism most effectively,” one of the activists, Grace Gescheidle said. “We will leave with the tools and resources we need.”
In addition to hearing from over a dozen speakers, the high school students also had the opportunity to tour President Reagan’s beloved Rancho Del Cielo, walking in his footsteps to better understand his presidency and personal life.
“I have a new takeaway every time I go to the Ranch,” Jack Duffy, a YAF activist at Newman Catholic High School said. “The values that can be seen throughout the property shows how Ronald Reagan was a true conservative, all the way down to the little details in his life. It is those little details that are so impactful.”
“I love how focused and inspired I am to go out and promote my conservative values because of this conference,” said Victoria Gruen from Signum Crusis Academy.
Last week’s Reagan Ranch conference is one of five high school programs Young America’s Foundation has planned for this year. In two weeks, YAF will host hundreds of students at our annual National High School Leadership Conference in Chevy Chase, Maryland. You can watch the programming live online via YAF.org/virtualpass.