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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

2014 Scholarship Winners Exemplify Youth Activism

28 May 2014 Published in Youth Activist Scholarship


These young activists were selected for their dedication to civil liberties, their leadership abilities, and their academic excellence.

A selection committee composed of community leaders and educators reviewed qualifying candidates from across the state. Each winner will receive $1,000 towards their first year of college and were honored at the 2014 Bill of Rights Breakfast Celebration on May 16. Traditionally, the ACLU of Utah presents three scholarships, but due to the level of outstanding applications the committee received this year, the selection committee decided to award FOUR scholarships!

“One of the great pleasures I have is being involved with the selection of the ACLU Youth Activist Scholarships,” said Laurie Wood, chair of the selection committee. “The applications are sometimes heart wrenching as well as inspiring.  The committee and I struggle with narrowing the field as so many of the applicants are well-deserving.  I feel truly hopeful when I see what students are accomplishing in their schools, their neighborhoods, and across the state.”

Congratulations to these fine youth activists! We are excited to see what more they accomplish in the future!

Web-MaryMary Burnett
Salt Lake Center for Science Education

"The best way to protect our civil liberties is to educate each other. I am committed to teaching others to welcome and embrace the differences they see around themselves. To understand each other is to empower one another."

Mary is a leader and a relentless activist. Mary demonstrated her tenacity when her church was splitting apart; members were divided amongst those who wanted to accept openly gay individuals and those who did not. That is, until Mary gave a powerful speech encouraging members to stop judging people based on their sexual orientations. Inspired, the church decided to admit all members. Though Mary had won, she continued her activism for equality and acceptance for all at school.. In high school, Mary started a Gay Straight Alliance Club. Though the club was initially unpopular, Mary held steadfast to her beliefs and planned to participate in the Day of Silence, a day when people, around the globe, take a vow of silence in solidarity with those who have been silenced by bulling (including, but not limited to, the LGBTQ community). Moved by her resolve, many students and administrators came to Mary to speak about tolerance and ultimately, joined her club. Mary plans to continue her work supporting the LGBTQ community and hopes to work at the Pride Center one day.

website-AshleyAshley Whimpey
Juab High School

"With most arguments concerning equality or rights to different groups, for me it comes down to a sharing thing. I don't understand why someone would be so selfish they don't want anyone else to have something that brings them joy."

Ashley has demonstrated that she is a fearless advocate of equality. Perplexed by the inability of homosexual couples to marry, Ashley risked both her perfect GPA and her continuance in her English class when she chose to write an essay outlining the unconstitutionality of marriage discrimination. Ultimately, Ashley’s teacher refused to grade her paper--but that only strengthened Ashley’s resolve to speak out. Then, as Editor in Chief of her school newspaper, Ashley chose to feature a photo of a lesbian couple enjoying themselves at prom. Though the photo caused controversy and almost led to the shutdown of the newspaper entirely, Ashley argued that the photo was not only aesthetically fit for the paper, but also, that the girls in it had the same right as anyone else to be published. For Ashley, the school paper is just the beginning. Later, she hopes to pursue a career in journalism so she may continue to promote civil liberties, to influence others with her words and her choices, and to set an example for future generations.

Gloria-webGloria Hammond
Box Elder High School

“Activism is being able to recognize important social issues as well as conflicts and being able to respond with involvement and action. Being aware of social injustice is the first step towards making a difference, but unless you have the incentive to take action, those injustices might not be resolved."

Gloria has exuded maturity and bravery beyond her years in her fight for LGBT rights. Inspired by heartbreaking testimony from her close, personal, LGBT friends about social ostracization, Gloria decided to establish a Gay Straight Alliance Club at her high school. To do so, Gloria showed great commitment to her cause as she graciously handled every hurdle put in her path. First, Gloria created a club curriculum and a club Constitution. Then, she had to win a debate, whether or whether not non-curricular clubs should exist, against her school board. By taking further action to spread awareness, Gloria managed not only to win the debate, but also, to gather the largest crowd the school had ever seen at a meeting. Taking away from this experience, Gloria realized that despite resistance, one could promote change. She wants to continue to empower the downtrodden by studying sociology and by pursuing a humanities degree.

Web-MadiMadison Palmer
Cottonwood High School

"I believe that we, as human beings, have certain unalienable rights- one of them is freedom. I also believe that those of us who have been blessed with these rights have the responsibility to fight for those who have had them taken away."

When she was 15 years old, Madison volunteered to experience what it would be like to be homeless. As she sat on the side of the street, a sketchy man attempted to lure her into his unmarked van with the promise of a meal. That day, Madison was introduced to human trafficking and realized how easily a hungry child could become a victim of it. Convinced that no person should ever have to experience what she did, Madison joined Backyard Broadcast, a youth for youth movement to combat domestic minor sex trafficking. Soon, Madison started a corresponding club at her school. By utilizing a three-prong approach, Madison’s Backyard Broadcast Club has become the most successful in the history of the organization and even aided the passing of House Bill 163, Human Trafficking Amendments. Keeping with her philosophy that everyone has a responsibility to make the world a better place, Madison wants to become a documentarian to spread awareness and to expose issues that exist in today’s society.

Find out about past scholarship winners >>