By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Betsy Reich, PHC sophomore
Over spring break this past year, for example, Reich and her twin sister Molly drove to Richmond to serve the TeenPact national staff. And this summer she ran what VP of Operations for TeenPact Leadership Schools Lydia Shanks calls “the best merchandise store by far” at the TeenPact National Conference in Tennessee.
“We were excited about having her come,” said Shanks. “She is a hard worker, and what I appreciate about Betsy is that she doesn’t just perform a task. Her heart is really involved. She is there to give back to TeenPact.”
Now active in 38 states, TeenPact seeks “to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things.” The organization offers a one-week class in a state capital, and brings in public officials to speak to the students, while leading attendees on tours and field trips to meet lobbyists. The high-schoolers dress formally, write a bill, analyze other bills, and earn one-third of a high school civics credit during the class.
Because of its heavy emphasis on developing leadership, TeenPact’s volunteer counselor team is composed of carefully-selected program alumni. While Reich participated on this team in 2008 and 2009, allowing her to help lead camps in other states as well, her leadership involvement actually began several years prior. In 2003, when she was 12, her brother was competing in NCFCA speech and debate. The mother of one of his teammates, the TeenPact state coordinator for Washington, talked Reich’s mother into visiting the week-long class. When she did, she brought Betsy and her twin sister, Molly, to the one-day class for younger kids at the end of the week.
“I didn’t really understand the political process before, but the one-day class made it so fun and understandable at my level that it was very educational,” says Reich. “It would be hard not to like it. And I have been hooked ever since.”
Reich participated as a student from 2005 to 2007, by which time, she says, “TeenPact had made such an impact on my life that I wanted to give back.” Her opportunity quickly came. At the state program in 2007, the state coordinator stood up and announced that they hadn’t achieved the minimum necessary attendance of 30 students. Unless they all spread the word about TeenPact, they might not be able to organize it in Washington the next year.
Reich, Noah Oberlander (L) and Michael Ciandella (R) create yearbook during her freshman year at PHC.
“Back in 2007, I was the quiet person who didn’t want to be at the front of the room,” marvels Reich, confiding that she had been used to “hiding” one step back, fearful of public speaking and more comfortable serving as campaign manager than candidate. “But God used my desire to bring TeenPact back to Washington to overcome that fear.”
Reich’s subsequent success at training and organizing students to communicate TeenPact’s mission winsomely at conferences caught the attention of the national office, which asked her in 2007 to serve as promotional coordinator in Washington. Working as “right-hand lady” to the state coordinator, Reich earned enough trust to eventually step into the state coordinator’s job in 2010.
“If you had told me when I started TeenPact that I would be state coordinator in 2010, I would have laughed at you,” smiles Reich.
While many TeenPact participants phase out of leadership after their late teen years, Reich says that she “didn’t feel released by God” from the organization during her first year at PHC. She kept in contact, helped out from a distance, and was asked to serve at the national conference one week after PHC’s commencement exercises this past spring.
“It is important to have people on my team with a heart for the Lord and for ministry—servant leaders,” Shanks explains. She says coming to the national conference after state programs is “like getting in the elevator, taking students up to the next level of what God has for them.”
Reich, who has already begun to serve at PHC in several capacities during her freshman year, observes that “No other organization I know of trains student leaders as well as TeenPact.” She sees herself helping with alumni relations and, from a distance, with the program in Washington state.
“I have incredible friends from across the nation whom I’ve been blessed to know,” she says.