From a young age, Serena Juchnowski has enjoyed the sport of riflery. Ever since her grandfather brought over a .22 caliber rifle to her house hoping to create an interest in riflery her eighth grade year, the Revere senior has demonstrated her natural talent through attending weekly practices and competing in matches on the weekends. When Serena discovered an event to attend a national summit, she started to write Google-contest essays, hoping to apply and earn the opportunity to experience a week-long event of learning, hands-on experiences, and a chance to win awards and scholarships. Although Juchnowski’s application was not accepted her sophomore year, she gained acceptance her junior year, giving her the ability to attend the NRA’s Y.E.S. (Youth Education Summit) Program in Washington, D.C.
Juchnowski took part in the Y.E.S. program this past July. As one of 47 students attending from 37 different states, she was chosen out of a mass of 280 candidates who applied to attend the national summit.
“NRA Y.E.S. offered me the chance to meet like-minded, bright individuals from across the country and form friendships while learning about different states. The variety of ideas, opinions, and traditions among the group made casual conversations and academic discussions engaging and unique. Everyone had something different to offer based upon his or her background,” Juchnowski said.
Students who attend Y.E.S. are educated in an in-depth look at the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights; activities include tours of the national monuments, the opportunity to practice with live ammunition at shooting ranges, debates on constitutional topics, and much more. As part of a scholarship determination process, Juchnowski collaborated with students across the nation before the summit to prepare for a debate that would be conducted the first day.
“Time differences provided quite the challenge as my group included individuals from California, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, and Michigan. . . . We worked together using email, imessage, and Skype to research and craft a case and prepare for rebuttal,” Juchnowski said.
Y.E.S. students were presented with the chance to listen to different speakers, many of whom were prominent individuals of the National Rifle Association. These speakers included individuals such as Kyle Weaver, the NRA Executive Director of General Operations; Jim Porter, the former President of the NRA; Rick Tedrick, the Chief Financial Officer of the NRA Foundation, and many more.
With an avid interest in firearms and the backgrounds behind them, Juchnowski enjoyed the group tours to both the NRA Firearms Museum and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
“The sheer number, diversity, and beauty of firearms on display captivated me . . . . I thought the National Museum of the Marine Corps very unique. It presented different battles and wars throughout American history in a relatable way with interactive exhibits, increasing my already great respect for America’s servicemen and women,” Juchnowski said.
As a part of the summit, the NRA gave $16,000 in scholarship money to selected students at an end-of-the- week awards banquet; Juchnowski was awarded a $1,500 scholarship, along with the title of “Most Likely to Win a Shooting Championship” by her peers. Abigail Klein, the Youth Education Summit Coordinator, says Juchnowski’s scholarship was awarded for her, leadership, passion, and involvement displayed in the program. Juchnowski’s award was presented to her by John Frazer, Secretary for the NRA, and Sarah Engeset, Director of Volunteer Fundraising for the NRA.
For one who has already attended the Y.E.S. program before, the opportunity to chaperone new students is opened to individuals three years after they attended their first summit. Sean Coffindaffer, a junior at Samford University, recently attended Y.E.S. for the second time as a chaperone this past July. He was also able to meet with Juchnowski and other first-year students during the summit.
“My favorite thing about YES was being able to meet so many people nationwide with similar backgrounds and ideals . . . . I think that [Juchnowski] and the other 46 students became more informed and are willing to use the knowledge they acquired to help make a difference in the nation and even the world,” Coffindaffer said.
Other chaperones, such as NRA employee Catherine Barsanti, never attended the summit as a student.
“I honestly was never aware of the program prior to being hired by the NRA. However, after being involved with it my first year I saw how much it transformed students and brought them closer together in such a short amount of time. It’s truly a life changing program and it’s incredible to see how much participants grow, learn, and become more confident in themselves as a result,” Barsanti said.
Juchnowski believes that she has represented Revere well as the only individual from Ohio to attend the NRA summit this year. She voiced that her activities, grades, and education at Revere allowed her to strengthen her application quality to earn herself a leadership opportunity; Juchnowski also credits her classes at Revere, which helped her to prepare for the summit and earn herself a scholarship.
With her week-long adventure of education and newly formed friendships, Juchnowski’s grandfather really did make a difference. Not only did he assist her in expressing her natural talent in riflery, but he improved her ability to prepare and perform, allowing her to show her passion and strength to represent herself both as a student and a riflewoman.