The ACLU of Utah’s first-ever outreach coordinator for southern Utah has hit the ground running

In August, Sydni Makemo joined the ACLU of Utah as the organization’s first-ever Southern Utah Outreach Coordinator. Based in St. George, Sydni will boost our affiliate’s engagement in this fast-growing part of the state. We asked her to describe her first month on the job, and this is what she wrote:

Dear ACLU of Utah:

Although you might not realize it, we are already friends. You can call me Sydni.

I’m new to the ACLU, but I’m not new to appreciating the work that this organization does. Like many of you, I’ve witnessed injustice in my life. And, like many of you, I’ve seen how the law—skillfully applied—can bring justice to those denied it.

 I believe that one of the best things about our country is how the civil liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution apply equally to everyone living here. You don’t need to be a citizen to exercise your First Amendment rights. You don’t need to be documented to seek protection against discrimination. Well, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. When the system fails, the ACLU is there to plug the holes in our constitutional rights.

The ACLU of Utah believes that you are entitled to the same rights no matter if you live in a big city or an isolated corner of the state. But for years the affiliate’s resources have been concentrated along the Wasatch Front. Our main office is located a half-mile from the Utah Capitol and within a few blocks of the state office buildings and fancy law firms that encompass most of our legal work. But what about the rest of the state? What about the one million Utahns who live outside the Ogden-Provo corridor? 

That’s where I come in, at least for everything south of I-70. I see my job as identifying opportunities and making connections to places in Utah that the ACLU hasn’t been able to reach before. I am the eyes and ears of the ACLU in southern Utah. I am the maker of friends, and the planner of incredible events. I am the face-to-face meeting at your favorite cafe instead of a phone call to Salt Lake. I am someone who understands southern Utah, who graduated from Dixie State University, and who can tell you the best ice cream in St. George is on the boulevard at Nielsen’s. 

Launching the ACLU’s first outreach project in southern Utah is a huge endeavor. To make it easier, I divided my responsibilities into these three steps:

  • • Listen
  • • Organize
  • • Act

The listening phase is off to a great start. During the last month, I sat down with students, professors, and administrators at Dixie State University. I button-holed local business owners, community leaders, parents, school principals, non-profit organizers, and attorneys. My goal is to introduce myself to the many communities that make up southern Utah and let everyone know that the ACLU is here as a neighbor, as an ally, and as someone willing to help.

As I continue to listen, I am already pursuing the next step of organizing events based on what I’ve learned. I am organizing an educational event about DACA and immigrants’ rights for the region’s large and growing immigrant population. I am also planning a “Know Your Rights” training for the St. George-area LGBTQ community featuring Leah Farrell, the ACLU of Utah’s Senior Staff Attorney. 

The third step guiding my work is action. Or, as I like to describe it, “Doing what I said I was going to do.” This not only includes putting on events, but also engaging in deep conversations, developing key relationships, and building trust and commitment within new communities. The first event that combined both listening and organizing was the Pride of Southern Utah festival that occurred at the end of September. I enjoyed seeing so many people from our community share in a festival based on the idea of accepting people for who they are. 

I am thrilled to be the newest member of the ACLU of Utah team. And I am grateful to have the chance to get to know you better.  Like I said, we’re already friends. 


Sydni Makemo

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2018 Fall Newsmagazine >>