Teenagers today are nothing if not strategists. When 47 high school students were participating in a mock Friends of NRA event as part of the 2016 Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) summer program at NRA Headquarters, two of them each figured they could use their $5 worth of NRA fun money to buy 24 spaces each on the Grid Board. With 144 total slots available, each had one-sixth of the squares covered, so they each stood a pretty good chance of winning one of the four prize bags for that game.
The strategy worked for Troy Ryder, a 16-year-old from California, whose name actually ended up being called twice—though he donated the second bag back to the game, allowing Evelyn Bizovi to win because an extra letter and number was pulled out of the buckets.
William Lavelle wasn’t as lucky as Troy, but that’s one of the takeaways of the Y.E.S. program. It’s not necessarily just about winning swag as much as it is about learning more about some of the fundraising activities the NRA does and about this country and its founding principles. (The Y.E.S. students spend part of their week-long seminar at government sites in Washington, D.C., and at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.)
They come from all walks of life—some come from families with a history of NRA support and others introduced their families to the NRA because of the Y.E.S. program.
Alyssa Ray, 15, for example, has been actively involved in real Friends of NRA events because her grandfather and father are NRA members. So she brought a good understanding of the real thing to the mock event.
“This one’s a lot smaller, but a lot of the games are the same,” said Alyssa, who hails from Echo, Ore. Because of her family ties to the NRA, she has volunteered at real Friends banquets and has learned first-hand what goes in to raising money for the Association —some of which is used to pay for the teens to attend the annual summit in Fairfax, Va.
Jacob Bosen, 17, is on the other end of the spectrum, having little real-life experience with the NRA before he applied for the Y.E.S. workshop.
As a rising high school senior in Morgan, Utah, he was trying to get a jump start on finding ways to pay for college. He learned about the NRA’s program during a search for scholarships. Once he applied and learned more about the NRA, he asked his family to take him to a Friends event.
Although he didn’t win anything at the real Friends banquet, he did get $2,000 in educational aid. He plans to apply the money toward his college costs—likely at the University of Utah, but he’s holding out hopes for being able to attend the University of Hawaii.
Evelyn, who won the prize pack that Troy donated back to game, is somewhere in the middle. Some relatives are NRA members, but they’re not vociferous advocates of the Second Amendment because they live in Portland, Ore., where anti-gun sentiment prevails.
“Out there, we hear a lot of negative things about guns, so we don’t get too involved publicly,” she said. “But I think that people need to be more aware of the positive things the NRA does, so I applied for this program so I could find out more about the other things it does.”
She hopes to be able to apply what she learns to help people get a better understanding of the things many Americans hold dear, like the Constitution and the freedoms previous generations have fought to preserve.