Youth activists claim over $10,000 in scholarship awards!
2018 is the eleventh year that the ACLU of Utah is awarding scholarships to Utah’s outstanding college-bound high school seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties activism.
A committee of educators and community leaders met in February to review applications from more than 20 inspiring young activists around the state. These four students were chosen for their inspirational work in standing up for civil liberties in their schools and communities.
We are grateful for the support of the B. W. Bastian Foundation, the McCarthey Family Foundation, and other private donors for this year’s scholarship program.
Our four winners talk about their activism in this the short video below.
Abena BakenRa, West High School - "A civil liberties activist is someone who isn’t afraid to acknowledge the discrimination and inequalities in our society and work diligently to take action because nothing has ever progressed towards change without people fighting for what is right."
As a young African-American woman, Abena recognizes she is member of a marginalized community, and realizes how important it is for her to stand up to injustice. She helped start a club called “Voices of Equality” to foster inclusiveness at West High. The club has met with community leaders, planned and participated in protests and rallies—including a student march that Abena helped organize to the State Capitol in 2017—to raise a united voice against the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Abena was elected sophomore class president and has continued to develop her leadership skills through the National Honors Society, Feminism Club, and as a captain on four varsity sports teams at her school. Abena is looking for a college that will not only support her educational and leadership goals but inspires an accepting political atmosphere by building on social justice ideals.
Paola Cervantes, West High School - "An activist will fight for justice and equality no matter how big the issue can be. This is the right time to stand up and take action on the many social problems that surround us."
As an immigrant herself, Paola applied her passion for immigration issues while working with Comunidades Unidas in support of the Safe Schools Resolution, which was passed by the Salt Lake School District in early 2017, affirming the District’s commitment to all students regardless of citizenship. Paola was elected Diversity Ambassador and founded the Diversity Board at West High School focusing on social justice and community service. Her group is involved in the state legislative process to protect DACA students in Utah. She participated in Latinos in Action and Voices for Equality at her school to be a voice for inclusivity of all cultures and personal identities. She also volunteered as a tutor at Jackson Elementary and is an active member of the National Honors Society. Paola plans to pursue a degree in International Studies and Political Science while remaining active in her commitment to social justice.
Fabiola Munoz Henriquez, East High School - "I want to be the voice for those in my community who have been through similar experiences as I have and are scared to speak out and stand for themselves. Together we can stand for justice."
Fabiola’s family immigrated from El Salvador when she was 12 years old. As she adjusted to life in the U.S. she was confronted by a bullying culture and learned to use her voice to stand up for herself and others. As a teenager, Fabiola suffered the trauma of sexual assault. Instead of dropping out or giving up, she used that life changing experience to become stronger and help others. Fabiola went through the arduous process to find justice and ensure her attacker could not harm anyone else. This struggle inspired her to serve her Latinx community as an advocate for other young women and immigrants. During her junior year, she became involved in several leadership camps to make others aware of the prevalence of sexual assault in her community. Fabiola published an article in Our Voices and became a presenter on the impact of bullying and rape culture. Fabiola plans to continue serving her community after college as a nurse.
Isaac Reese, Brighton High School - "Taking action fulfills a fundamental civic duty and requires compassion and optimism. It is a tangible way to right wrongs, fix mistakes, and improve the future for every human being alive today and those to be born tomorrow."
Isaac became acutely aware of injustice as a middle school student when Utah sought to block recognition of same sex marriages in 2013. In high school, he began volunteering at the Utah Pride Center and joined the Queer Youth Activist Collective. Isaac launched a campaign to ban gay conversion therapy in Salt Lake County by enlisting the cooperation of community leaders and elected officials. He led a school movement in support of DACA and DREAMers, and he organized the first Pride Day at his school. In addition, Isaac has successfully argued for students to express their First Amendment rights within a school setting. His recent activism includes organizing events to commemorate Women’s History Month, highlighting the local and national gender wage gap and organizing the Salt Lake City March for Our Lives. Isaac plans to continue his struggle to protect marginalized individuals through college and to become a civil rights attorney.