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Student Spotlight

Abby Ershadi

StudentGreenville, North Carolina • Class of 2023

Abby Ershadi, one of the recent winners of our Think the Vote debate contest, is in her junior year at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville North Carolina. Abby is a busy and multitalented young woman with diverse interests. Her favorite subject is English, and she participates in mock trial, Science Olympiad, FBLA, and several other clubs at her school. She also dances at a local studio, NCADA. “I love hanging out with my friends, going to the beach, and reading,” says Abby, “And I love dystopian books and movies, so I love The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series.” Her favorite musical artists include Chase Atlantic, Green Day, Ghost Club, and Camino. Abby is very proud to have been accepted into the North Carolina Governor’s School West, “a multi-week summer residential program for gifted and talented high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses.” As a future voter, the three most important issues to Abby are human rights, the environment, and affordable health care. Abby’s plans for the future include obtaining a degree in either business or journalism and traveling.

Abigail Christensen

StudentHouston, Texas • Class of 2024

2021 We the Students Honorable Mention winner Abigail Christensen already has a diverse range of interests from biology to world history, despite having another three years ahead of her at Incarnate Word Academy in Texas. By the end of her freshman year, Abigail was already involved in three of her high school’s sports teams as well as its speech and debate club. The latter of which has led her to start thinking about a career in law although she has plenty of time to decide how she ultimately wants to “make the world a better place for people.” As both an active social media user and a student of world history, Abigail would be interested in how Joan of Arc would be using social media if she were alive today. Having learned about Joan of Arc and so many other important historical figures and events from her teachers, she credits them with being important influences in her life along with her parents. Abigail is not able to vote yet, however that hasn’t stopped her from thinking about issues that matter to her such as equality — a principle she can help to uphold if she stays on the pre-law track. Additionally, Abigail cares about protecting things that are important to her such as the environment and animals.

Amy Olsen

StudentBarrington, Illinois • Class of 2023

Curiosity and a love of learning are the clear driving forces in Amy Olsen’s life. “I spend a lot of time checking out books from the library to teach myself random things,” says the high school junior from Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois, and a recent winner of our biweekly Think the Vote debate contest. “I have comprehensively taught myself basic Astronomy and Korean,” she notes. Among Amy’s favorite books are The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Dance of Thieves, and It Ends With Us. Amy also loves music, and her favorite artists are artists are The Blue Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Blackpink, and Thin Lizzy. In her free time, she also enjoys riding horses and playing video games. Amy’s favorite classes are AP Government and Physics, and as far as extracurricular activities go, she is involved in UNICEF Club, 60010 Feeds Kids, Key Club, and Class Board. She is also active on several social media platforms including Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. As a future voter, the three most important issues to Amy are climate change, voting accessibility, and improving the justice system, and her future plans include studying Pediatric Psychology or Aerospace Engineering. “My dream would be to work in the space industry,” says Amy, “But if not, I want to work with kids and families.” And who is Amy’s hero? Definitely her mom, she says. “She was a stay-at-home mom of five kids for most of her life, but eventually decided she wasn’t satisfied and decided to make her mark,” says Amy. “She began in her 40s by helping teach special needs students before getting her own degree in teaching and now she is a middle school English and social studies teacher. She taught me it’s never too late to chase your dreams.”

Angier Lei

StudentNew York, New York • Class of 2023

Since he is a member of Stuyvesant High School’s policy debate team in New York City, and a lover of history and politics–his favorite subjects include AP United States Government and Politics and AP European History–it is no surprise that junior Angier Lei was one of our recent Think the Vote debate winners. In addition to the debate team, Angier also plays on the school’s tennis team and is the vice president of the history club. Angier is proud of his accomplishments in debate and history. “I have been able to attend competitions hosted by prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Yale in debate,” he notes, “And have qualified for an international history trivia competition.” Angier is a fan of many different musical genres including classical jazz, pop, and electronic dance music. His favorite book is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and in his spare time he enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games. The three most important issues to Angier as a future voter are social justice, healthcare, and the environment. As far as plans for the future, “I intend on pursuing a career in political or social science,” Angier says, “But I’m leaving my options open as I like to be prepared for the possibility of change.” Angier says his heroes are his parents, emphasizing “the difficult sacrifices [they made] for me in the hopes that I would have a better life than they did, and that I would be the first in my family to go to college, the first to get a stable, well-paying job, and the first to live a life where I could achieve my dreams.” “When I achieve my dreams in life,” says Angier, “I will know that my heroes have also achieved their dreams: a better life for me.”

Annalise Wade

StudentBig Sandy, Tennessee • Class of 2021

Both inside and outside the classroom, BRI student network member Annalise Wade displays a diverse set of interests. A junior at Big Sandy School in Tennessee, her favorite classes are U.S. History and AP Biology, the latter of which fed into her participation in the HOSA – Future Health Professionals student organization this past year. In addition to playing for Big Sandy’s varsity basketball team all throughout high school, Annalise is involved in Beta Club and she recently co-founded a creative writing organization at the school. If he were alive and on social media today, Annalise would follow famed writer C.S. Lewis, who Annalise thinks “would be a remarkable source of inspiration and blessing in today’s climate,” as she “[admires] his writing and passion for following Christ as Lord and Savior.” Annalise praises her older sister, Abbey, for being a positive influence in her life, adding that Abbey’s “loyalty, honesty, and genius have been and will continue to be something I’m constantly amazed and blessed by.” As a future voter, Annalise cares deeply about preserving the separation of powers that exists between the U.S. government and state governments under federalism. Moreover, she is especially concerned about issues related to Second Amendment rights and abortion. Though her future plans are admittedly “somewhat uncertain,” Annalise will likely attend college with the intention of becoming a nurse practitioner and, eventually, returning to school to become a physician assistant.

Annika Cushnyr

StudentAlbuquerque, New Mexico • December 2016

Honors: Red Cross Real Heroes Youth Good Samaritan 2014, Medical Reserve Corps Honors, President’s List (4.0) Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, Girl Scout Gold Award, Constitutional Academy 2015 Annika Cushnyr is a sophomore at the Central Michigan University Honors College, and is double-majoring in French and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. She is a former intern for Senator Tom Udall, a current Resident Assistant at her university, and is involved in the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. Annika is described by her friends as “determined, ambitious, and organized.” Annika was initially introduced to the Institute through the “We the Students” essay contest in 2015. Annika deepened her involvement in BRI by attending Constitutional Academy in the summer of 2015. She described the academy as, “an incredible week that forced her to think about issues from many different viewpoints. It was a rewarding experience to be surrounded by individuals that are passionate about the same topics as me, even though we may have disagreed on major issues.” Of great importance to Annika is the Constitutional principle of “equality under the law.” In her mind equality, should be at the heart of all decisions made by policy-makers. The principle of equality connects to Annika in a more concrete way to her current and future career. Beginning in 2017, Annika will have the opportunity to be CEO of the non-profit Bridges to Tajikistan, whose mission is to build connections, create opportunity, and advance education for youth in both the U.S. and Tajikistan. Annika will be studying abroad in Sweden during the Fall semester of 2017, and hopes to continue her international focus by studying in France the following Spring. Annika plans to attend law school upon the completion of her bachelor’s degree. After law school, she would like to work within the field of international human rights.

Ariana Maria Perez

StudentFullerton, California • Class of 2024

Ariana Maria Perez, one of our recent Think the Vote debate winners, is a young woman who is optimistic about her future. “The future looks bright to me,” says Ariana, “Sometimes I think of working for NASA, other times I think of being a scientist studying chemistry or a doctor studying anatomy. I am also interested in law and government, so maybe I will go to law school.” Ariana is a sophomore at Troy High School in Fullerton, California, where her favorite classes are English and History. She is on the girl’s golf team, participates in Mock Trial, LEO Club, WOW Club, NJROTC, and orchestra. In her free time, she also enjoys watching 80’s movies with her cat, Kiki, listening to music, and volunteering at her church. As a future voter, budget, homeland security, and social programs are three of the most important issues for Ariana. Her favorite books are Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Fahrenheit 451, Grapes of Wrath, and The Great Gatsby, and her favorite movies are Legally Blonde, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and most Marvel or DC comic book movies. Travel is definitely in Ariana’s future, too. “I hope to learn to speak both Spanish and French,” she says, “to help me to appreciate and enjoy other countries’ cultures and histories while I travel.”

Ava Chaladpru

StudentPalestine, Texas • Class of 2024

Ava Chaladpru, one of our 2021 We the Students Essay Contest runner-up winners from Palestine, Texas, wasted no time getting involved in a diverse range of clubs her freshman year at University Academy. In addition to competing in her school’s University Interscholastic League, Ava is a member of their HOSA — Future Health Professionals chapter. Her involvement in the latter has also inspired her to become a doctor because it gives her an opportunity to “reassure [people] and encourage them to not give up.” Ava attributes this empathetic attitude to her family’s influence, particularly her uncle. She also looks up to her teachers, and as a result, has trouble picking a single favorite class. That said, history is one of her top subjects, and she notes three historical figures that she would love to follow on social media if they were alive today: Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin. The unifying link between them all? “That [she] could learn a lot from all of their experiences.” Although she can’t vote yet, Ava knows what issues are important to her and what she looks for in a candidate. She primarily cares about ensuring the rights of all citizens, and that fairness and equity are at the forefront of policy. In general, she wants what is best for the country and hopes it consistently improves where possible.

Caitlyn Beebe

StudentBaton Rouge, Louisiana • Class of 2022

Caitlyn Beebe, one of the runner-up winners of our 2021 We the Students Essay Contest, hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A rising senior, Caitlyn attends Trivaio Academy, a homeschool program, plays on a basketball team, and also enjoys playing piano and violin. She enjoys taking classes in philosophy, literature, and Latin. As a future voter, the most important issues to Caitlyn are, “the sanctity of human life, the preservation of religious liberties, and the foundational role of objective truth and morality in the political process.” The person from history she would most want to follow if he were alive today is Ronald Reagan, and Caitlyn’s greatest influence is her mom. “She always encourages me to do my best,” says Caitlyn, “and to set high goals.” As far as future plans, Caitlyn hopes to become a lawyer someday, specializing in government policy and/or Constitutional Law. “I also plan to write a few books and maybe start a blog someday.”

Caroline Lindey

StudentCo-president, Speech and debate team

Voted “Most Likely to Run the Constitutional Academy in 10 years” by my Constitutional Academy peers; Co-president of the speech and debate team; Graduate of the Leadership Institute’s Youth Leadership School in Arlington, Virginia; First place winner for Senior Individual Exhibit for the National History Day’s Pittsburgh regional competition In the past, most of my peers in school have had this apathy towards my love of history, economics and politics. I always felt that students my own age saw me as an outsider because of my passion for discussing current events and learning more about our founding documents. I even at times dealt with opponents inside and outside of the classroom who were very against my support of the Constitution. Thankfully, at Constitutional Academy, I found the opposite. I discovered that there are professors and teachers who praised the founding fathers rather than degrade them. I connected with other bright young constitutionalists who believe that it us up to us, the rising generation, to restore America back to the country the founders intended. And I felt a sense of mutual admiration and respect from these classmates I only spent a few days with. The young minds who are left with the task of protecting and defending the Constitution in a culture that tells us it is outdated and does not promote “progress”. I recently applied for an internship at United States Representative Mike Kelly’s regional office where I hope to learn more about the legislative process. I also have applied to attend Turning Point USA’s Winter Activism Conference where I plan to learn more about campus activism and network with other conservatives. My hope is to be accepted and to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan. I hope for the opportunity to take a gap year, return to Hillsdale, double major in economics and political science, and maybe intern for an organization like the Bill of Rights Institute. I honestly would intern for the Bill of Rights Institute this summer if they would take me, because I know how successful they are at conveying the messages and voices of the founders in such a spirited, youthful, honest and lively way. I feel part of my future is finding out why an organization such as the Bill of Rights Institute is so successful in what they do and then replicate that myself. I envision myself in 20 years establishing my own organization, if not sooner.

Danae Melon

StudentLas Cruces, New Mexico • September 2016

Awards: 2014, 2015, 2016 NMAA Symphony Orchestra State Champion; 2017 NMASC State Conference Student Coordinator; Student Board of Directors- Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (Branch of El Paso); Bill of Rights Institute’s USCIS Immigration Group Project Winner Danae is currently a senior attending Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Her involvement in her school’s symphony orchestra, student government, National Honors Society, Key Club, and Interact Club have developed her as a young community leader. Her greatest achievements have come through her involvement in her high school’s orchestra and student government. Danae notes that her involvement in the We the Students essay competition, Constitutional Connection, and 2016 Constitutional Academy has, “broadened her familiarity with current issues and opened her mind up to new ways of thinking.” This summer, she had an opportunity to participate in a naturalization ceremony as part of the 2016 Constitutional Academy. She described this experience as an, “amazing scene to see such a diverse population be so overjoyed to become United States citizens,” and thought that Constitutional Academy as a whole “was a life-changing event.” Danae will be graduating in 2017 and hopes to attend Baylor University. After university, she wants to help people by practicing as a pediatrician surgeon both locally and internationally, later going on to work in health policy.

Daniel Paviglianiti

StudentPittsburgh, Pennsylvania • Class of 2017

Honors: Two-time FBLA states attendee, Silver Medal winner at the Head of Ohio (2015), Bronze Medal winner at Midwest Rowing Regionals (2015) Daniel is currently a senior at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh. In addition to his academic pursuits, he is an active member of his school’s FBLA team, crew team, forensics club, chess club, and orchestra. Daniel has worked diligently to pursue his passions, and he is a regional silver and bronze medalist in crew, and a two-time state qualifier in the FBLA. Daniel has participated in the Institute’s online debate platform, and was also selected to attend the 2017 Constitutional Academy. Reflecting on his experience at the Academy, Daniel says he “loved having open and civil discussions on a variety of hot political topics with students from all over the nation. Constitutional Academy strengthened my understanding of the Constitution.” He is known as something of a history buff, excelling in his AP U.S. History, AP World History, and AP Government courses. When asked about how the Constitution and the Founding principles play a role in his life he says, “I want to tie the Constitution into my life by respecting the rights that I believe everyone has.” Daniel believes that the Constitution is the most important document in our country’s history, as it secures certain rights for citizens and facilitates freedom. Daniel is looking forward to graduating this coming spring and taking his talents to either the University of Pittsburgh, Holy Cross, Hillsdale College, or Loyola University in Maryland. After majoring in political science or business, Daniel aspires to attend law school to become a Constitutional lawyer. He desires to help others understand their rights and guarantee their protection under the Constitution.