The Fiery Crucible

Entering my freshman year of college I was confident how my first year would play out. Go to classes, hang out, maybe play some intramural sports, but that was it.  I didn’t come to school to start something, I was just here to get my degree and get out. Never was it in my intent to come to college and create an organization, let alone assist leaders in a state wide network of campus based organizations, but luckily fate intervened in the form of a YAL staffer.

While I was already inclined to the ideas of liberty I had no passion for the subject, nor did I command a true understanding of the philosophy. I was an ardent keyboard warrior ready to share the dankest of liberty-themed memes, but I never pushed past the internet to take my ideas into the real world. Having stumbled across the YAL website I signed up as a member and looked for a chapter at my school. Realizing my university was not home to a YAL chapter I forwent the seemingly daunting task of starting a chapter. Who was I, some starry-eyed freshmen with no real presence on campus and absolutely no leadership experience, to start a brand new organization?  Chalking it up as a loss I closed my browser and went on with my life. 

I was one of the lucky few to be contacted by a YAL staff member after being identified. What a crazy experience: someone whom I had never met before, and honestly did not want to speak with had managed to get me on the phone and was essentially promising me an unbelievable set of opportunities. I was transfixed by a whirlwind of thoughts and concerns. 

Only through the persistence of my Regional Director, was I convinced of the need for a YAL chapter on my campus.  Still, I was petrified at the idea of starting what I perceived as a highly charged group on a campus with no one else to back me up.  

By the time the school year was over we had three people signed up and held a meeting. Under pressure from our then-Regional Director, I applied to and was accepted into the YAL National Convention. At YALCON I was overwhelmed by the achievements of other chapters and expectations that were beset upon me.  How could they expect my meager group at a small private school to compete with the likes of division one schools with tens-of-thousands of students? 

I went back to campus with a passion for change and incredibly timid expectations. If I could muster the group to a membership base of just 10 members by the end of the year I would be ecstatic. If we could just do two events during the year it would be beyond my wildest dreams.  

Even though I was terrified that I would have to put in the lion’s share of effort on my own, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of assistance at my disposal.  State chairs, regional directors, partner organizations, and my team on campus all stepped up to help develop the group.  By the end of the academic year my chapter was the best group not just on our campus, but in the region. Holding over 13 events and building a membership of over twenty dedicated student leaders and activists, our YAL chapter became a machine for spreading liberty and elevating student leaders.

After successfully creating a culture where my home chapter could thrive, I was drafted by the national office to join the team of State Chairs and help other student leaders.  What an insane thought: not even year in to the liberty movement and already I was being asked to help students go through the same process I had just started several months ago.  

Again I was met with the help of a gracious leadership team that helped me in more ways than I could have imagined. I was able to help identify YAL leaders throughout the state and national networks.  

I want to impart one thing on anyone new to the movement: no matter who you are, how young you are, whether you have leadership experience or not, you are capable of great things. You have the resources to dominate your campus. You are not in this alone, and most importantly you are the one who is going to lead this movement to victory.

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