Here at OUTSET, part of our mission is to encourage and equip young conservatives to #SpeakOut and make a difference. And as we enter 2016, the young conservative movement has never been stronger. All across America, thousands of young people are taking a stand for freedom. But in most cases, these amazing activists never get the recognition they deserve for their hard work and perseverance.
The OUTSET Team would like to change that. The OUTSET Awards is the first part of our initiative to honor extraordinary young conservatives who have stepped out of their comfort zones and are changing the world. These sixteen young conservatives are from different parts of the country, work with different organizations, and have different missions, but they all have one thing in common – extraordinary leadership, hard work, and dedication.
Without further ado, we present the sixteen recipients of the 2016 OUTSET Awards!
Possessing hair so universally enviable that it appears as the second suggestion in a Google search following her name, Lila Grace Rose is a fierce young warrior for human rights. Like many of the heroes of conservatism in this pool of bravery and brilliance, Lila began her battles against anti-American values very early; in this case, at the age of fifteen when she founded Live Action, a non-profit/pro-life investigative organization.
A well-credentialed candidate for wider recognition, Lila Rose has spent over a decade fighting against the abortion industry by exposing mistreatment and manipulation of women at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics, demonstrating the underpinning culture of discrimination that exists within abortion facilities, and being a key leader for legislative reform to protect the most vulnerable members of American and European society.
Throughout her noble campaign, Lila Rose has received both the highest honors and the lowest slanders. She has been labeled a “young hero” by the late Andrew Breitbart and has been championed by countless prominent voices in the pro-life movement. On the more vile side of the political spectrum, Lila has been viciously attacked by extreme leftist groups such as Media Matters and The Progressive which feebly attempt to discredit her work as “sleazy.” As per the usual treatment of any strong and controversial activist, she has also received her fair share of death threats. In spite of this hatred and bile spewed by radical collectivist factions, Lila has continued to battle unwaveringly in defense of life, firmly securing her well-deserved position on this list of young influential conservatives. (Josiah Popp)
Joshua Thifault is an ambitious and incredibly skilled conservative activist who has dedicated the past year to growing and expanding Turning Point USA’s already impressive and rapidly expanding grassroots movement. Thifault graduated from Cedarville University in Ohio where he studied marketing, which aided him when he worked as social media consultant for Mike Pence for Indiana. He got his start in politics in 2012, running the largest phone-banking center in the country in the effort to elect Mitt Romney President. He also served as a grassroots organizer for Concerned Veterans for America, but most importantly, he established the foundations of Turning Point USA’s Ohio field program.
After solidifying the Ohio team, Joshua moved to Florida, where he currently serves as the South Florida Field Director. His goal is to use his story, combined with Turning Point’s vision, to “weaponize millennials to engage their peers.” Through speaking engagements, fundraising, and fieldwork, Joshua is using his experience to help make Turning Point the most effective organization in student history by Election Day. This year, Thifault will continue working in the field with a heavy emphasis on fundraising, speaking engagements, and media appearances. Joshua is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2016. (Lauren Rae Konkol)
“I hadn’t expected to end my official childhood getting assaulted by terror supporters outside the White House.” So begins an amazing story that sounds like it happened in Iran instead of America. Just days before he turned 18, Matthew Foldi heard about a pro-Hamas rally scheduled to take place in front of the White House. Foldi says that he felt he “couldn’t let an event like this go unchallenged,” so he went to counter-protest wearing an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) t-shirt and using an Israeli flag for a cape. Far from being a peaceful protest, the Hamas supporters threw rocks, hurled insults, and then proceeded to tear the flag from Foldi’s back and set it on fire. Still, he stood firm until the protest ended, eventually joining with a US Marine who was also there to stand for Israel.
Foldi’s activism didn’t just start on that day in Washington, however. At only 16, Foldi worked on the Senate campaigns of both Richard Lugar and Scott Brown. He is heavily involved with Junior State of America, an organization that works to “strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society.” Foldi has also worked with the bipartisan group “No Labels,” and spent this past summer working for Marco Rubio in Iowa. Matthew Foldi is an amazing example of a young person standing up for what they believe, no matter the cost. (Conrad Close)
In a country where people are always blaming the government for problems, Garrett Humbertson is at the forefront with an organization trying to actually fix many of those problems. Garrett is the Video Production Specialist for Citizens for Self-Governance, a nationwide grassroots organization that began in 2013. CSG’s primary project is Convention of States, an effort to invoke Article V of the Constitution and enforce constitutional reforms that will limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. Garrett’s job is to both educate people about the COS process and report on COS-related news through video, social media, livestreaming, and written word.
This has given Garrett a front row seat to one of the largest grassroots organizations in the United States with one million supporters and volunteer leadership in all 50 states. Garrett travels the country to capture grassroots activity and legislative action, giving a voice to grassroots activists and state legislators who are interested in limiting the federal government and expanding the citizens’ liberties. In addition to his involvement with CSG and COS, Garrett provides his commentary as the Assistant Editor of RedMillennial. He is a graduate of Regent University and Liberty University with degrees in Video Broadcasting, Cinema, and Government Policy. (Stephen Perkins)
State Representative Michael Caldwell from Woodstock, Georgia is not your typical state legislator. When Michael first ran for State House as a 19 year old in the 2010 election cycle, he lost to the incumbent with 46% of the vote. Instead of giving in to those who thought him too young and inexperienced to win, Michael ran again in 2012 on the platform of accountable, honest and transparent government, this time winning with a little more than 53% of the vote. This made him Georgia’s youngest elected legislator at the age of 23.
Now, 3 years later, Michael still proudly serves his constituents in Woodstock and hosts weekly coffee meetings to hear directly from them. Rep. Caldwell also makes it a point to visit young conservative groups all across Georgia throughout the year to motivate them to dream “beyond the realm of possible”. At his address at CPAC in 2013, Rep. Caldwell encouraged young conservatives to not just be the future but to also be the present. For his diligent service to his constituents and his outstanding contributions to the young conservative movement across America, Rep. Michael Caldwell is indeed a worthy recipient of a 2016 OUTSET award! (Joash Thomas)
When you read Joshua Edmonds’ bio, the term “overachiever” comes to mind. He’s worked as top aide in the Georgia State Senate, founded a Christian non-profit organization, and now works as the Director of Education and Technology for Georgia Right to Life, where he helps to vet Presidential candidates and train other pro-life activists, – yet he’s only 24 years old.
As a pro-life activist, Joshua is passionate about educating and informing other young people on the issue of life. He travels all over Georgia – and the US – speaking to audiences about the fight against abortion. He’s never been afraid to speak out about what he believes – just ask him about some of his experiences on hostile college campuses. But Joshua always speaks with passion, humor, and respect for others – something that has won him respect and admiration even from pro-choice lobbyists. He’s a great example of how we can live out our values in a winsome, persuasive manner and still make a difference. And Joshua has made an incredible difference in both the cultural and political realms, making him a deserving recipient of a 2016 OUTSET Award. (Conrad Close)
Cade Marsh is someone who has and will continue to play an integral role in revolutionizing the Florida grassroots conservative movement. He got his start as part of the Palm Beach County fundraising team, after which he was identified by the College Republican National Committee, and was selected to serve as their Iowa Field Representative. In Iowa, he, along with his team, worked tirelessly to work on behalf of the GOP to elect Governor Branstad, who won 98 out of 99 counties, and Senator Joni Ernst.
Marsh came back to Florida and directly operated the political campaigns for two local politicians in the South Florida region, all while attending school at Palm Beach Atlantic full time. After serving alongside the CRNC, he partnered with conservatives across the state of Florida to become the Executive Director for the Florida Federation of College Republicans. Cade transitioned from participating in grassroots movements under the guide of the College Republicans nationwide to becoming a spokesman for these grassroots organizations. His vision is “students reaching students” and is working tirelessly to implement the largest student-led field program of any state federation.
His goal for 2016 is to continue representing College Republicans across the state of Florida and building record numbers of chapters and members, partnering with organizations such as Leadership Institute, Republican Leadership Initiative, and Turning Point USA. Through coalition building and by implementing an incredibly impressive CR field program, the height of Marsh’s ambition this year is to deliver 100,000 new conservative votes by the November elections, turning Florida red. (Lauren Rae Konkol)
Brigid Mary McDonnell
Brigid Mary McDonnell is another rising young conservative who is working hard to make a difference. She got started as the Chair of Students for Nathan Deal, and later went on to serve as a Communications Intern for Governor Deal. She interned for Fox News on Greta Van Susteren’s show over the summer, and now works for Fox full time in their DC Bureau. Brigid Mary also serves as the National Communications Director for Students for Rubio. (Conrad Close)
Although Lilia Dashevsky’s first aspirations for politics and current events stemmed from watching Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, you would not be able to guess it today as Lilia is a strong voice for Republican values for the next generation and for the state of Arizona. It’s hard to find someone who has achieved so much at such a young age, but once you meet Lilia, you understand how she has done so. From internships with Congressman Paul Gosar (later a full-time staffer), the Arizona Republican Party, and the Arizona Corporation Commission to being elected as the youngest member in history to serve on the Arizona TARS State Board – later being elected as the State Chairman.
Receiving praise from AZ GOP Executive Director Chad Haywood as “a leader with a gift for planning, organization, and following through…”, Lilia was also recently referred to as a “teenage prodigy” by the Arizona Capitol Times. Today, aside from studying journalism and mass communications at ASU, Dashevsky is a candidate for a Member At Large position on the Maricopa County Republican Party Executive Board. As the leading voice for millennial activism in the state of Arizona, Lilia Dashevsky will continue to be a driving voice in the Republican party for many years to come. (Josh De Ford)
There seems to be a general belief that young people are not interested anymore in intellectual subjects like history, philosophy, and civics. But Quinn Reichard, a student at Hillsdale College, knows this to be false because he’s built an entire organization behind the idea of seeking truth, asking “why?” and encourage action of what is right.”
In 2013, Quinn founded American Individualists in Northern Virginia. His organization, which has experienced incredible growth over the years, hosts weekly forums for young people to discuss, debate, and question political assumptions. Thanks to Quinn’s leadership, what started as a small meeting among a few friends is now an organization of passionate and intellectual teenagers debating the issues of the day. (Stephen Perkins)
For the last decade, Representative David Clark has been serving his country. During Operation Enduring Freedom, he served for six years on the ground in Afghanistan. When he returned, he was nominated to take the place on the ballot of a GOP candidate who had passed away.
Clark won his election unopposed, and has worked hard in the State Legislature. In fact, David was appointed to Chair a Study Committee on Welfare Fraud despite only being a Freshman Representative – something that rarely happens in the Georgia State House. (Conrad Close)
As the Mississippi Director for Dr. Ben Carson, Daniel Ashford works on the front lines as a young conservative activist. At 21 years old, Daniel has become a leader in the conservative moment by not only working for Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, but also through his leadership in the Young Conservatives group at the University of Alabama where he serves as the president.
At YC of Alabama, Daniel works hard to train the next generation of young conservatives. He has been engaged in conservative activism for five years, beginning with his internship under Mississippi Lt. Governor Phil Bryant. Hardworking, well-spoken, and staunchly pro-life, Daniel Ashford is another worthy recipient of a 2016 OUTSET Award. (Will Jones)
As the debate over gun rights heats up, there are some who are taking the fight for the second amendment to college campuses. One such person is Antonia Okafor, the Southwest Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry. During the last Texas legislative session, Antonia went to the Austin and advocated for student gun rights. And in her role with Students for Concealed Carry, she has appeared on Al Jazeera America and her work has been published by the Austin-American Statesman, the Texas Tribune, and Breitbart. She is even a regular guest on the NRA News show, Cam and Company.
In addition to fighting for gun rights, Antonia served as a field coordinator for Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s 2014 campaign and she currently serves as the Precinct Chair for the Denton County Republican Party. Antonia is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, where she earned her B.A. in International Political Economy in 2013. She is currently a Public Policy graduate student at UT-Dallas. (Stephen Perkins)
As a young conservative in the deep blue state of Massachusetts, Ben Rajadurai doesn’t have it easy. But as the Chairman of the Massachusetts College Republicans, he’s doing his part to turn MA red. As as activist with the College Republican National Committee, he’s working on the front lines – engaging students and bringing millennials into the Republican Party. He’s also worked as an intern for the RNC in Washington, DC. (Conrad Close)
As a young conservative living in Florida, Alexandra Kiara Artiles is fighting for the future of America on one of the most important battlefields. Florida is likely to be a major swing state in 2016, and could be the difference between a Republican or Democrat winning the White House. Alexandra is doing her part to help – serving as Executive Director of the Florida Federation of Teenage Republicans, helping local GOP candidates, and working to bring more millennials into the Republican Party. She also writes for Future Female Leader. (Conrad Close)
Mauricio Pons has made great efforts in spreading the conservative message, reaching millennials and high school students across the state. In wake of the Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, Pons formed the footings for the Miami Dade Country Teenage Republicans. What started out initially as him and two members rapidly developed into a vibrant movement of over 300 passionate, political student activists in South Florida, making a noticeable impact in Miami politics.
Following these efforts, Mauricio further developed a passion for local politics and mobilized his TARs group to help Rep. Carlos Curbelo win Florida’s 26th Congressional District. After playing a role in helping the Curbelo campaign, he served as an intern for his district, working directly with the constituents of the district. Most recently, however, Mauricio, a first semester freshman, was recently elected as the Chairman of Florida International University College Republicans. His vision is to continue to encourage members of his community to become leaders in their community. (Lauren Rae Konkol)
Congratulations to all of our 2016 OUTSET Award winners!