This was the first year for YAL at Slippery Rock University and right off the bat the group was blessed with some very dedicated members. There is also no College Republicans group on campus, so we had a unique opportunity of winning over some minds that may have leaned to the far-right before. It all started in August of 2011 at the Weekend of Welcome where our first tabling event was held. Little did we realize how far this group would end up going!
After recruiting some new members and interest to the group, we were off and running. Original members who are still with us are Brandon Cestrone (President and PA state chair), Steve Strausbaugh (Vice President), Josh Weitzel (Treasurer and PA state chair) and Chris Penco (new President for next year).
We were aggressive with events in the first semester and our first big event was a Free Speech Wall. Building the wall and tabling throughout the week allowed our initial members to gain some comraderie and get to know each other. We kept the wall up for a week and there was plenty of buzz on campus about the “new activism group in town.”
The biggest event of the fall was our economic panel discussion, inspired by the ideas from our own group members, where we hosted two professors from Grove City who discussed free markets with two Keynesian professors from Slippery Rock. Over 300 students attended the panel and packed the venue wall to wall. This event would go on to be nominated for “Event of the Year” by Students for Liberty. Many from the group attended the SFL conference and were proud to be nominated for the award. We were all encouraged when fellow YALers recognized our university name and told us to keep up the good work for liberty.
The big event for the spring semester was the Decade of War protest. The idea for the flag planting and “War: Was it Worth It” Wall was group-inspired. The SRU YAL group on campus is well known and a topic of discussion in and out of the classroom on a regular basis.
I could go on in this post about events that we did, but the main goal of this post was to acknowledge the members of our group here at Slippery Rock. Many times we see them in pictures or a random quote here and there but what everyone has done together to make our activism efforts successful cannot go without being noticed.
At any point of the year we had between 6 and 10 highly dedicated members with as many as 15-20 interested and attending meetings. Brandon (President), Steve (Vice President), Josh (Treasurer), Emily Buck (Secretary) and Emily Shaffer (Outreach Coordinator) all took leadership positions and were dedicated to their work.
Josh put in extra time on a regular basis. Among many other things, he established a checking account, developed our official group budget, took on SGA and their corrupt budgeting process and many times constructed Free Speech Walls or mock TSA scanners all by himself without help from any other busy group members. He never missed an opportunity to help out at an event or go to activism/training conferences in the region.
Emily Buck attended every YAL meeting and brought an open-minded perspective to the table. As secretary she helped document and establish our entire schedule for the Spring semester, organizing everything with Google Docs. She often volunteered to take on artistic aspects of projects such as designs on the Free Speech Wall or creating posters for the Decade of War event. She occasionally hosted social parties for the group at “The Yellow House,” too. Emily will be the new Vice President next semester and plans to continue her enthusiasm for the cause of liberty.
Chris Penco is one of the “plankowners” of the SRU YAL group having been there from the first meeting. Chris also never missed a meeting and brought a unique perspective to discussions. He was always around for events and always willing to take time out of his busy schedule to be at events. Chris will be the new President of the group next semester. Look for him soon on NHK News, a Japanese news channel. They came to one of our recent meetings, decided to feature Chris and our group on their program. They wanted to show how young people in America are against our current foreign policy decisions.
Emily Shaffer was the activism/outreach coordinator for us this year. She was excited when we were trying to bring Ron Paul to campus and helped lead that effort. Emily rarely missed events or meetings even with her busy performance schedule for her major, dance. She will maintain her leadership role as activism/outreach coordinator next year.
Brandon will be going on to the YAL summer internship after the semester is over and plans to keep working for the cause of advancing liberty. You can find his suggestions on how to run an effective YAL chapter in posts from earlier this month, or wait for the next installment which should be coming out soon.
Steve will be graduating this summer after competing for the Koch Summer Fellowship Program and being placed through that in Nashville at the Beacon Center. He also has a job lined up in the fall with the Leadership Institute as a field representative, so building activism groups continues!
On a personal note I would like to thank everyone in our group for one of the best experiences of my life so far. It has encouraged me and emboldened me to see the dedication level of fellow liberty lovers. This was definitely a unique group and I feel very lucky to have been able to know and work with the members of the SRU YAL group. Best of luck going forward, you all ROCK!