Phoenixville Student Named to Battlefield Trust Youth Team

PHOENIXVILLE PA – Kellen Narke (at top), a Phoenixville Area High School senior with an enduring appreciation of American history, is one of 15 teens from across the nation who have been selected by the American Battlefield Trust as a 2020-2021 member of its Youth Leadership Team, it announced Thursday (Sept. 3, 2020).

The group will spend the coming academic year “engaged in an advocacy campaign to bring historic preservation, education and heritage tourism initiatives to his community,” according to the organization, which is dedicated to battlefield preservation. Narke’s 14 colleagues include another Pennsylvanian, as well as members from the states of New York, Maryland, Florida, New Mexico,, South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Illinois, and Missouri.

“Today’s students are tomorrows historians and community leaders,” Trust President James Lighthizer said. “These young people are emerging leaders who have the potential to impact education, preservation, and visitations strategy and policy for decades to come.”

Earlier this summer, Narke and the team spent two days in orientation for their coming tasks. Over the coming year, he will pursue creating a podcast to share “historically relevant” and “lesser-known” stories of historic events in Gettysburg and Valley Forge.

“Battlefields and historical sites have a great ability to inspire. I think translating that into something on the Internet is going to be my biggest challenge and, eventually, greatest accomplishment,” Narke said.

Team participants were chosen through a competitive application process that started last spring. Successful candidates met with Trust staff members virtually in several training sessions. They also refined individual preservation and interpretation project proposals they’re now ready to launch on their own.

Thanks to funding from the Pipkin Foundation, each student receives a base stipend to bring their vision to life. Additionally author Jeff Shaara, known for best-selling works of historical fiction and a former trust board member, has offered an additional grant for the year’s best storytelling project.

Separately, Narke also is a member of a Villanova University team conducting research into historic “information wanted” newspaper ads placed by former slaves searching for their families after emancipation. That project is known as “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery.”

Photo of Valley Forge cannons by Djmaschek via Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons license