Classes are starting up again, but for local student Abbie Hasty, a senior at Alton High School, the learning started early, undergoing a two-day orientation as a member of the American Battlefield Trust’s Youth Leadership Team.
Along with 13 other passionate young people from across the nation, she will spend the next year engaged in an advocacy campaign to bring historic preservation, education and heritage tourism initiatives to her community.
The American Battlefield Trust is the nation’s leading battlefield preservation organization. Since 1987, it has protected nearly 54,000 acres of hallowed ground on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War, while its education programs have supported thousands of classrooms and brought more than 32,000 students to historic sites through its Field Trip Fund.
“We hope to foster a love of history in the next generation and connect them with the battlefields that defined our nation,” Trust President David Duncan said. “The Youth Leadership Team is a crucial ingredient in turning these hopes into a reality, as these students position themselves to hold meaningful conversations that bring to light the value of history education and battlefield preservation — core elements that define the work of the American Battlefield Trust.”
Participants were chosen through a competitive application process, beginning last spring. Successful candidates met with staff virtually in a host of training sessions — learning about the Trust mission and background on historic preservation, the mechanics of land conservation, how to interact with the media and advocate with local officials. Most importantly, students were able to refine their individual project proposals in consultation with these experts. Now, with this newfound knowledge, participants are eager to begin preservation and interpretation projects of their own.
Over the next year, Hasty will pursue an interpretive online project that exposes the history behind the Alton Prison, which was deemed Alton Federal Military Prison and housed Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. An interactive website will bring this history to life for Alton community members, with the use of primary sources that are analyzed for easy understanding. Historic photographs and diagrams will provide visual appeal while personal connection will be built through the sharing of soldier stories.
“We have history all around us,” Hasty said. “It makes up our towns, our homes, and our identities. History shouldn't just live in books, we should actively seek it out in order to protect the very elements that connect us to our past. I’m excited to be part of this program because I have the opportunity to not only get to know new people, but learn how to build professional relationships.”
Thanks to funding from the Pipkin Charitable Foundation, students will receive a base stipend to bring their vision to life.
“The passion of these young people is not just inspiring, but tangible,” said Connor Townsend, the trust's manager of audience development and the project lead. “They have a vast dedication to the study of history, but through this program, they’ll have the necessary tools to demonstrate its continued relevance and resonance in our modern lives.”
The full roster of the 2021-2022 Youth Leadership Team includes: Olivia Bucs, 16, of Columbus, N.J.; Joseph Candelas, 17, of Harker Heights, Texas; Justin Chung, 16, of Anaheim, Calif.; Alexis Ellis, 16, of Saint Rose, La.; Abbie Hasty, 16, of Alton, Ill.; Sydney Kirages, 15, of Lake Forest, Ill.; Joseph Martin, 17, of Richmond, Mo.; Rory Moran, 17, of Davidson, N.C.; Sean Myers, 17, of Church Point, La.; Catherine Slavich, 16, of Lanett, Ala.; Hank Thompson, 17, of Richmond, Va.; Rachael Walters, 17, of Brunswick, Ga.; Stephanie Wang, 17, of Katy, Texas; William Whitworth, 15, of Ashburn, Va.
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 nearly 54,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.