Jennifer Beegle Award for Youth Involvement highlights the positive impact youth have on their community, in memory of Jennifer Beegle, a former member of the Youth Commission, who died in a car accident when she was 17. This award focuses on youth who volunteer in community-based agencies, local governments or places of worship, not for school involvement (i.e. drama club, student government).
The 2019 Jennifer Beegle Award for Youth Involvement winner is Sadie Wallsmith.
This spring, Sadie Wallsmith spent countless hours at the State Capitol in Salem negotiating with lawmakers. She frequently mobilized crowds in the rotunda. And she held weekly call-your-legislator sessions with her peers.
Her mission? Ending gun violence. And if Sadie’s list of accomplishments wasn’t impressive enough, consider this: she just recently celebrated her 13th birthday.
“It would be blissful if I didn’t have to do this,” Sadie says. “I shouldn’t have to be doing this work. I should be living a normal life free from this fear that every student feels, but that’s not the world we live in.”
Everyone who knows Sadie says there’s fire in her. In her own words, kids should be focusing on school or having fun. When asked what motivates her, Sadie brings up her mom. Sadie lost her to breast cancer on her 7th birthday.
“It’s something that I will carry with me my entire life,” she says. “I was always taught that I have a voice and that I should always stand up for something unjust that’s not right.”
Her mom would be proud. Sadie isn’t even in high school, and she’s already become a prominent figure in Oregon’s youth gun violence prevention movement.
She’s a leader in March for Our Lives Oregon & Youth of Oregon United, which mobilizes young advocates to press lawmakers for safer communities. She spearheaded an art installation at her school, Arbor School of Arts & Sciences in Tualatin, to honor the lives lost to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. She even was instrumental in shaping an anti-gun violence bill in Salem this year.
Her message against gun violence has brought her in front of legislative committees, national conferences, and even to roundtable discussions with leaders including Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
It’s not just that Sadie won’t stop. She says she can’t stop until students can live their lives free from gun violence. To her peers, Sadie offers these words: your voice matters.
“My message is that we can make change,” Sadie says. “And we’ve seen it before. We hold the power to change the world, and we just have to use it.”