It’s been noted incalculable times that college is a melting pot of ideas and that there are numerous clubs that cater to nearly every belief. As such, there’s no better place for the bold and adventurous to learn or experience new things than on their college campus. For some, college is the place to find your identity, and to discover just what it is that you're truly passionate about.
Lydia Schwertfeger was one of these people. Now the Southeast Regional Director and Intern Coordinator for Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), Schwertfeger explains that as a college freshman, she didn’t have any political ideology.
“I had actually signed up for all the political clubs on campus. College Democrats didn't really exist, or at least they never followed up with me. College Republicans only met once a month and didn't really do anything because it wasn't election season."
However, as Swertfeger explains, the Young Americans for Liberty were different. YAL had just started a new chapter in her school but they were already organizing events on campus. It didn't matter that they were new on campus or that it wasn't an election season, like her, YAL was just excited to be there.
Swertferger isn't the only one impressed by YAL's attitude. A member of the UNC Chapel Hill chapter, Trevor Moss explains his reasons for joining the organization.
"I joined because it was the only political organization that I felt was truly inclusive."
What is YAL
According to the official website, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is the largest, most active, and fastest-growing pro-liberty organization on America's college campuses. YAL’s goal is remarkably simple - to spread the ideals of liberty. This is done by educating individuals about liberty and training them on how to effectively promote these ideals. YAL members are often connected with future employment opportunities or kept in the political process, effectively mobilizing the group and further spreading awareness. Swertfeger explains:
We understand that not everyone is going to be the next Ron Paul, but by changing the hearts and minds of individuals across the country our ideas will win.
How did it start?
The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) formed in 2008 as a continuation of a former liberty-based group called Students for Ron Paul (SFP). As one can surmise, SFP was formed to provide Paul supporters with an outlet to share their beliefs with their fellow college classmates. In just the first eight months of its creation, SFP managed to recruit over 26,000 students and establish more than 500 chapters across all 50 states - unprecedented statistics for a third party organization.
YAL's goal is to build off this strong foundation and to continue spreading the word about liberty.
What do YAL members do?
YAL doesn't just talk about doing things. With over 700 chapters on college campuses nationwide, this is an active and hands-on organization. Members are invited to attend national conferences, hold activism events, and get creative.
Some may recall the name John Stossel as the host of the popular news analysis program "Stossel" on Fox News Business. In 2015, YAL and several other liberty-based organizations joined John Stossel on his show as part of the International Students for Liberty Conference. These college students were given the unique opportunity to discuss key issues with Stossel and Cato Insitute vice president David Boaz.
In total, the event attracted 1,013 participants from all across the nation. This is merely one example of the numerous events YAL members host or attend. It's not uncommon for individual chapters to travel to liberty conferences as far as Washington D.C. or attend popular political rallies such as CPAC.
Likewise, the national organization will also help sponsor local chapters with supplies and money to host campus events. This may include providing pizza for Presidential Debate Parties or getting contact information on influential speakers, such as video conferences with Edward Snowden. For example, one popular YAL event hosted by the UNC Chapel Hill chapter is the "Free Speech Wall" held in honor of Constitution week.
Where will it go?
Today, the Young Americans for Liberty is continuing to follow the footsteps of the Students for Ron Paul. Since 2009, YAL as grown from 150 chapters to over 700 chapters nationwide. YAL also has a strong presence on social media with their Facebook page reaching a maximum of 11.8 million people.
However, more important than any amount of statistics, YAL is a tight-knit community despite its size. It's a place to meet like-minded people from a variety of backgrounds and it's a place to make life-long friendships. As Lydia Swertfeger says,
The people I have met in YAL are like a family to me.
Lead Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons