NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — School is back in session, but for local student Sriya Tallapragada, a sophomore at the Pingry School, the learning started early, as she underwent a two-day orientation as a member of the American Battlefield Trust’s Youth Leadership Team. Along with nine other passionate young people from across the nation, she will spend the next year engaged in an advocacy campaign to bring historic preservation, history 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 more than 55,000 acres of hallowed ground on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, while its education programs have supported thousands of classrooms and brought more than 33,000 students to historic sites through its Field Trip Fund.
“As the next inheritors of our country, today’s students can turn to the trust for not only world-class educational resources, but also opportunities,” said trust President David Duncan. “The members of the Youth Leadership Team are trained and supported so that their passion for history and preservation can echo far and wide — carrying tangible impacts.”
Participants were selected through a competitive national application process, beginning last spring, and underwent training in many aspects of the organization’s mission — from the mechanics of land transactions to the philosophies of place-based education — and in advocacy skills, such as interacting with the media and petitioning support from public officials. Trust staff will work with and mentor students, as they each craft a project to be undertaken in their local community, tailored to fit their passions and interests. Thanks to funding from the Pipkin Charitable Foundation, each student will receive a base stipend to bring their vision to life.
In the next year, Tallapragada will pursue a project that highlights the significance of women amid war, ultimately resulting in the creation of a children’s book.
“I’m excited to be part of this program because it gives me the opportunity to ensure that younger generations have the opportunity to experience our nation’s battlefields,” said Tallapragada. “I was drawn to working with the trust because they accomplish so much to help the nation remember its past. They preserve these amazing places so that people — past, present and future — can be impacted and inspired by them, as I am.”
The trust’s manager of audience development and YLT lead, Connor Townsend, said, “With our Youth Leadership Team, we hope to give them the resources to not only grow their knowledge of preservation but to foster that same feeling in their individual communities. The dedication and passion our members have is palpable and demonstrates the importance of having young people represented in these historical places.”
The full roster of the 2022-2023 Youth Leadership Team is: Addison Anderson, 15, of Loveland, Ohio; Jacob L.T. Bates, 15, of Stonington, Conn.; Ella Dieterlen, 17, of Dillsboro, Ind.; Ana Kangsumrith, 16, of Fairhope, Ala.; David Mackowski, 16, of Georgetown, Texas; Ahmaya Rivera, 17, of Elizabeth City, N.C.; Grace Schroeder, 17, of Portland, Ore.; Colin Y. Shen, 15, of Houston, Texas; Colter Sienkiewicz, 17, of Livingston, Mont.; and Sriya Tallapragada, 15, of New Providence.
Photo Courtesy of Colleen Cheslak