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Scholarship Winners

09 September 2014 Published in Youth Activist Scholarship

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Ria AgarwalACLU UTah Scholarship Winnersv7 crp 400 - Rowland Hall

Emory Bouffard - Academy of Math, Science, and Engineering

Dulce Horn - Rowland Hall 

Ainsely Moench - Skyline High School







19 Scholarships photos sq 450Saida Dahir is a trailblazer. The 18-year-old Somali-American Muslim came to the U.S. as a child refugee and became an activist by combating the stereotypes she faced in her everyday life. Saida uses her powerful words and emotions to connect with people from all different walks of life through her poetry and engagement with groups like Black Lives Matter Utah, March For Our Lives Utah, and Utah Environmental Solutions. Saida strives to be the representative of power and responsibility that she never saw growing up 

Jeniel Zimmerman’s passion for activism can’t be stopped. In between serving on the March For Our Lives Utah board and running the Gay-Straight Alliance at Mountain View High School in Orem, she organized a school walkout and planned the Utah County Youth Climate Strike. Next fall, she’s headed to the University of Utah’s Honor's College to earn a degree in political science before attending law school to become a civil rights lawyer and show that queer youth can overcome the unique challenges they face and become successful.

Asha Pruitt was born to lead. Not only is she Youth Mayor Pro Tempore of Millcreek City and the president of her school’s Political Activist Club, but she’s also the Executive Director of March for Our Lives Utah, helping that group register 2,000 new voters and raise $12,000 for gun reform. She has written slam poems about being the child of an immigrant, debated narrative arguments using queer theory, and directed a one-act comedy satirizing climate change deniers. Asha will focus her education on becoming a human rights lawyer and, one day, a U.S. Senator.

As an immigrant herself, Sofia Catalina Negrete-Retamales strives to eliminate the injustices faced by immigrants and minorities. The Copper Hills High (West Jordan) senior serves as President of the Latinos In Action program, co-founded the first Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment club, and particpates in her school's National Honors Society, Hope Squad, and Slam Poetry team. She also interned at Comunidades Unidas, where she drafted a petition for compassionate immigration reform and delivered it to Utah's Cngressional representatives in Washington, D.C.



Scholarship18Abena BakenRa, West High School- 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. 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 -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. Paola plans to pursue a degree in International Studies and Political Science whileremaining active in her commitment to social justice.

Fabiola Munoz Henriquez, East High School - 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. Fabiola plans to continue serving her community after college as a nurse.

Isaac Reese, Brighton High School - 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. Isaac plans to continue his struggle to protect marginalized individuals through college and to become a civil rights attorney.


Jessica Rodriguez and Yearim De Leon were chosen for their strong commitment to protecting and enhancing civil liberties in their schools and communities. These two amazing young activists were selected from many outstanding applications submitted by graduating high school seniors across the state by a committee of educators and community leaders. They are each receiving a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward their first year of college and were honored, along with other Utah civil liberties heroes, at the Bill of Rights Breakfast Celebration on May 25, 2017.

seniorpictureJessica Rodriguez, Cyprus High School:

"Being a civil liberties activist means you are willing to stand up for your community and members of a marginalized community to end systemic oppression. It means you are willing to do whatever it takes to take that step closer towards true equality."

As a child of immigrants, an activist for LGBTQ student rights, and advocate for restorative justice, Jessica is a fighter for and protector of equal rights for all. Jessica, along with two friends, started the first Gay Straight Alliance Club at her conservative school. She is also challenging her school to cut ties with large donor Chick-Fil-A due to their public anti-gay messages and policies. She sees her local campaign as a springboard to help facilitate other schools to refuse funding from businesses that do not promote equality. Jessica also serves with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), acting as Utah’s Youth Council President, and recently attended a national conference in Washington D.C. to advocate for the voting rights of marginalized communities. In addition to her activism, Jessica embraces the spirit of volunteerism by working with the Magna/Kearns Peer Court to serve at risk youth. She was recently recognized with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for her many hours of community service but returned the award to the White House in protest that it is only offered to American Citizens, thereby disenfranchising the many undocumented youth in her community. Jessica looks forward to continuing her work towards social justice in college and to help those who are not able to achieve higher education.

Yearim Headshot SmYearim De Leon, Taylorsville High School:

“From the moment I advocated for the equal use of our playground swings in elementary school, I knew that I needed to continue to fight for what’s right. We all must get involved in being a voice and a catalyst to see a positive, lasting, change occur.”

Yearim has been involved with Comunidades Unidas as a Community Engagement and Immigration Clinic Intern for most of his high school life. Early on, Yearim used his leadership skills to serve hundreds of community members over a three-month period through bi-weekly immigrant rights trainings leading to a passion for immigration reform advocacy. As a Youth Ambassador for Taylorsville City and a regular participant at national conferences, Yearim strives to make his community more inclusive. Yearim also maintains academic excellence and has been named Utah’s 2017 Social Science Sterling Scholar. As his school’s Senior Class President, Yearim is an advocate for more inclusive and equitable school policies. After the 2016 Election, Yearim helped organize a walk-out of over 1,000 students from five high schools who demonstrated their solidarity alongside immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ students, and community members. Because of his outstanding civic engagement, Yearim was chosen to be a speaker at this year’s Multicultural Youth Leadership Day at the Utah State Capitol. Yearim will continue to be an activist and advocate while in college, helping those who are not represented or heard.

 We are grateful to the B.W. Bastian Foundation for their generous support of this year's scholarship program.


Amy Damian Ramirez and  Alessandra Miranda, were chosen for their strong commitment to protecting and enhancing civil liberties in their schools and communities through their work for educational equity, comprehensive sexual heath curriculum, immigrant rights and social justice. They will receive a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward their first year of college and were honored, along with other Utah civil liberties heroes, at the Bill of Rights Breakfast Celebration on May 20, 2016.

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Amy Damian Ramirez webAmy Damian Ramirez
Academy for Math Engineering and Science 

“Being a civil liberties activist means to be aware of an issue affecting my community and taking action to make a change. It is important to represent the voices of others who aren't heard. It is bringing people with different ideas together to help with the change."

Amy has been a volunteer for Comunidades Unidas (C.U.) for four years after graduating from their Leadership Training program in 2012. During this time, she has been engaged in, and facilitated, many community projects. In 2013 Amy helped implement the Children’s Environment Health and Environmental Justice project and was recognized as C.U.’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year. Part of her work, during this time, was organizing and conducting surveys of Glendale and Popular Grove residents to identify the issues and concerns that they faced in their neighborhoods. Amy then took a leadership role in the C.U. campaign “Despierta!” or “Awaken!” to inform Latino workers of their rights. This project included organizing workshops for over 3,000 community members; hosted by the Mexican and Peruvian consulates, churches and schools. Amy joined the Mestizo Art & Activism program as a senior in high school, organizing forums and discussions for high school students on social justice issues including immigration, LGBTQ rights, and legal access to abortion. Now that she is graduating high school, Amy plans to continue her involvement as a mentor for younger students and to further her social justice activism in college. 

Alessandra Miranda webAlessandra Miranda
Rowland Hall

"Being a civil liberties activist means using my voice to advocate for other young women. Education is the most crucial component of a young woman’s life. I aspire to improve women’s education in my own community, specifically women’s health education."

As an African American and Latina youth, Alessandra has been an advocate for empowering young women through increasing educational opportunities, especially in sexual and emotional health. She joined Planned Parenthood’s Teen Council during her junior year of high school and, as a Peer Health Educator, began teaching sexual education classes to middle and high school students in her community. In these classes she led discussions on topics such as contraception, STD’s, and the important issue of sexual consent as well as the legal rights of those who have suffered sexual assault. Alessandra has lobbied courageously at the Utah State Capitol on behalf sexual assault victims and for increased sexual health curriculum in schools. She was chosen to represent the Teen Council with a speech outlining their crucial work before a crowd of 3,000 during a recent rally to support Planned Parenthood. Alessandra has also been an active member of her school’s Inclusion and Equity Committee, constantly striving to make her school and community more inclusive for all. Alessandra plans to continue advocating for women’s rights, comprehensive health and sexual education, and equality for all as a college student. 



Meet the amazing recipients of our 2015 Youth Activist Scholarship Awards! These three winners were selected by a committee of educators and community leaders for their strong commitment to protecting and enhancing civil liberties in their schools and communities. Each winner received a $1000 scholarship to be used toward their first year of college and were honored, along with other Utah civil liberties heroes, at the Bill of Rights Celebration on May 15The three young activists have taken strong stands for issues that included:       Fighting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation; Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline and providing support for marginalized students; Working to end bullying while organizing safe spaces and events for students of all backgrounds.  

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Jasper Ramirez
Taylorsville High School

“I want to be one to help wake the world up, to stand up for those who are forced to be silent under oppression. I want people to be able to open their eyes and think, ‘hey, these people are real people with valid voices, and they need our help.’ "

Jasper has excelled at breaking down barriers as an activist against gender identity discrimination in his school and community. He is an advocate for the rights of all, no matter their ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation or gender identity. He has constantly educated others and provided support for LGBTQ students through his school’s Advocates for Equality club and the Utah Pride Centers Youth Leadership Council.  Jasper has learned firsthand, how inadequate support for transgender youth can be. He has moved beyond his own struggles and is dedicated to supporting youth while challenging society to change. 

Web-Marcelina-2Marcelina Kubica
West High School

“I am an activist for change and an ally to the voiceless by helping youth find their own powerful voice through education, activism, and connecting them with resources and support. This helps to bring about positive progress.”

Marcelina has spent most Monday evenings working with the Salt Lake Peer Court on cases involving youth facing school discipline issues since 2012. Rather then sending youth into the traditional juvenile justice system, she works with them to provide community support and resources to address their needs. Through this engagement she became aware of the growing School-to-Prison Pipeline problem affecting marginalized students and became an active organizer in educational campaigns and was a key organizer of the recent Youth Leadership and Activism Conference.

Web-SilasSilas Hassrick 
DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts

“A passionate drive to fight oppression through nonviolence, demanding equality and tolerance while promoting diversity, is essential to a long lasting protection of minority rights.”

Silas is an openly gay student at his high school. As a freshman he started the first Gay Straight Alliance that morphed into the WE CARE (Within Every Campus All Rights Equal) club focused on preventing bullying while promoting understanding of and support for LGBTQ students. With this mission in mind he organizes the annual Day of Silence event at his school. The prior Regional GSA Director of Utah for the OUTreach Resource Center in Ogden, he now volunteers at the Utah Pride Center helping plan the annual Queer Prom so that students can have a place to feel good and enjoy themselves.


Meet the amazing recipients of our 2014 Youth Activist Scholarship Awards! Traditionally, the ACLU of Utah presents three scholarships, but due to the level of outstanding applications the selection committee received this year, the scholarship selection committee, composed of educators and community leaders, decided to award FOUR scholarships! Congratulations to these fine youth activists! We are excited to see what more they accomplish in the future! This year's winners engaged in activism on a range of issues including advocating on behalf of free speech, LGBTQ rights, and an end to sex trafficking of youth in Utah. The selection committee reviewed qualified candidates from across the state to award students who exhibit dedication to civil liberties, leadership, strength in the face of adversity, and academic excellence. Winners were honored at the 2014 Bill of Rights Celebration on May 16, and will receive $1,000 towards their first year of college.

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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.  


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SheilaSheila Lazcano
Kearns High School, Kearns

“I want to be the constant reminder that barriers exist, but barriers are meant to be broken. Because education has been a big part of my life, I work for my right and the right of other underrepresented students to pursue their educational dreams. Education is something that no one can take from you.”

Sheila has worked tirelessly to expand the education opportunities to minorities, especially those who are undocumented, in the United States. As a student mentor for the FACE Movement, a pioneering program to assist students of color begun at the University of Utah, Sheila works to empower minority youth to pursue higher education. She also works with the Salt Lake City based Educate Team of Mestizo Arts and Activism to advocate for equal access to higher education for all. Sheila has shown a tremendous amount of courage in her fight to expand higher education opportunities to underrepresented students in Utah. She plans to continue her work with the Mestizo Arts and Activism organization and the FACE Movement when she attends the University of Utah.

LeislLiesl Darger
Herrman High School, Herriman

“All Americans are born with certain unalienable rights. I am committed to making a difference and defining our liberties as Americans. I am committed to equality and fighting for the rights of all.”

Liesl has stood up for religious freedom and equality since she was a young teenager. Growing up in an Independent Fundamentalist Mormon polygamous family, Liesl has at many times been marginalized and bullied for her unconventional family’s religion and lifestyle. Amazingly, Liesl has overcome these challenges and used her experiences to stand up for the rights of all regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds. She has made huge efforts to get her message out, appearing with her family on many television programs and media interviews, as well as participating on a panel discussion, organized by the Utah Attorney Generals Office, where she spoke about the effect that the criminalization of polygamy has had on plural families. In college, Liesl plans to continue her activism and pursue her goal of decriminalizing polygamy for consenting adults.

ElizaEliza Grainger
West High School, Salt Lake City

“My goal has been to be a resource to the students I teach as well as those who surround me everyday. This doesn’t mean simply handing out condoms at school. Adolescence can be daunting, and we seek to inform as many people as we can about healthy behaviors and relationships."

Eliza has been extremely active in her community as an advocate for sex education in Utah. As a volunteer for Planned Parenthood, she travels to schools, youth groups and public events, to talk about healthy relationships, contraception and the risks of sexual activity. In the wake of 2012 House Bill 363, Health Education Amendments, which would have required abstinence-only sex education in the state of Utah, she joined in the fight to keep the detrimental bill from being signed into law. Eliza participated in lobbying at the State Capitol, signed petitions, e-mailed state legislators and joined a rally in an effort to convince Gary Herbert to veto HB 363. Because of hard work from people like Eliza, the governor vetoed HB 363 in March of 2012. Eliza continues to volunteer with Planned Parenthood, furthering her involvement to become Teen Council Liaison to the advocacy tier of the organization.


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Academy for Math, Engineering and Science, Salt Lake City

”Just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe in... economic equality and educational equality. I believe a man should not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. But it takes more than just belief, it takes action. I’m determined to do all I possibly can to achieve equality for all.”

Patricio is a fiery and passionate promoter of civil liberties through his hard work in promoting racial equality. Doing everything from testifying before the Utah State Legislature, to appearing on a radio show to tell his story, Patricio has been relentless in his efforts to increase awareness of the issues faced by the immigrant community. Patricio plans to major in Political Science at Westminster University, and eventually attend law school to become a Civil Rights lawyer.


Hillcrest High School, Midvale

”It has taken a long time to accept who I am without the acceptance of others, but I’ve made it this far and I want to always be able to help others see their potential.”

Gabriel has long been committed to promoting social justice and equality. Gabe is a part of the LGBTQ community and has worked to educate the public about the unjust targeting of the LGBTQ community by tobacco companies. Gabe also started “Advocates for Equality”, an inclusive club that has advocated for policies to promote equal treatment of students in public schools.



Lincolnportrait2LINCOLN PARKIN
Weber High School, Pleasant View

“In the future, I envision a world where sexual orientation won’t define a person, but refine them. Where differences will be celebrated, not mutilated.”

Lincoln has worked with several different organizations in order to promote leadership, equality and service. Through his connection to the Ogden OUTreach Center, Lincoln helped with the “Pink Dot” campaign to create a supportive community for LGBTQ issues. Lincoln is also the president of the Gay Straight Alliance club at Weber High School. Lincoln feels passionately that music can be used to promote civil liberties, and plans to continue his passion for music and activism in college.


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Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science, Salt Lake City

“Often we, the youth, feel like we can’t do anything because we’re just kids. Yet, behind every movement, there are young people who are just as important as the adults. Change begins with us. As a civil libertarian activist, I envision continuing to be a voice for my community.”

Elizabeth has been active in promoting justice since junior high. She is a leader working tirelessly with MECHA and the Salt Lake DREAM Team, to promote empowerment through education and political action. Elizabeth is an advocate for those who need a voice, a fighter against racism, and is an effective defender of civil liberties for the immigrant community.

Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science, Salt Lake City

“Through organizing, protesting, testifying at the legislature, lobbying, and blogging, I directly challenge violations of constitutional rights. It is how I express my passion for freedom and equality.”

Nathan is passionate about his multi-level activism. He is part of the LGBTQ community and advocates for racial and social justice, an end to the death penalty, and peace. Nathan plans to defend constitutional rights and civil liberties as a public interest litigator after college and law school.


Pine View High School, Washington

“I participate in LGBT and Latina activism because I believe in equal opportunity for everyone. Youth activists have the important role of relating to young people and inspiring them to take charge of big issues going on in our country.”

Luissana is an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ community in her school and her community. Luissana is the first president of her school’s new Gay-Straight Alliance, is producing a documentary exploring the high number of teenage Latina pregnancies in Utah, and works hard to educate others about the harmful affects of hatred, homophobia, and racism.


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“Defending civil liberties is a core value in my life, and the driving passion behind my quest for further education. I am deeply committed to using the privilege of my education in the defense of those who are not as privileged.”

Ingrid Asplund, a self-described "crazy environmentalist hippie chick," serves as the Student Body President of the Walden School in Provo. She has started an "Eco-Team" at Walden, to make the school a greener place to learn. She also joined forces with Planned Parenthood to implement a more comprehensive sexual education for students there. Ingrid's activism extends beyond the high school campus, as well. She has participating in local and national political campaigns, and worked the Sierra Club booth at the Farmer's Market for several years. Ingrid has also been active on the international front: she has been on service trips to Mexico, Guatemala and Turkey, and spent her junior year as an exchange student in Germany.


“When youth are efficiently involved in politics and knowing their rights they become agents for positive change in their communities.”

As a young Latino facing and witnessing mistreatment due to prejudice, Joel Organista feels compelled to do something to address the realities of racism. A defining moment was his internship working on a documentary called "Red Flags: Racism and Ethnic Stereotyping in Schools." Joel then traveled to various national conferences - including the "Free Minds, Free People" conferences in Chicago and Houston, and the American Educational Research Association conference in New York City - to present and discuss the film. The West High student was eventually named to the national advisory board of the "Education Through Liberation" Network - the board's youngest member and the only member from Utah. Through his work with the Network, Joel played a pivotal role in leading fellow students to champion a National Student Bill of Rights.


“A change can start with just one voice. As I continue to voice my views, I can make a difference; I believe that youth have an amazing potential to make a difference in the world around them.”

Amber LeBaron has an impressive resume of activism on behalf of women and youth. She served as a summer intern for the Worldwide Organization of Women - at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. She interviewed women for the U.N. and compiled their stories for the Mother's Legacy Project. Amber was also one of the few invited to represent youth from around the word at the Civil Society Development Forum, hosted by the Conferences of NGOs. She drafted sections of the Youth Civil Society Development Forum Report, emphasizing the need for youth to be engaged and acknowledged. Locally, Amber has worked with the Utah WOW program, and she is a student government leader at American Fork High School.


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JamesJorgenbwJAMES V. JORGEN 

“Young people, even though they may not be conscious of it, are in fact the driving vehicle of change and progress in our society.”– James Jorgen, Youth Activist Scholarship Winner

Born in Thailand, Jim was adopted and brought to the United States at the age of four. Rather than bow to the racial discrimination he experienced at school, Jim and his family worked to educate others about racial diversity and justice. Jim is a fierce proponent of students’ right to question authority and voice their own opinions; he also stands up for students’ right to information and to hear dissenting viewpoints. Jim is captain of his schools’ Lincoln-Douglas debate team, and is also editor of the school newspaper, for which he writes columns on controversial topics such as sex education and abortion.


“I am very exited to learn that my actions haven't been taken for granted and that someone out there cares that I make a difference. That means a lot to me and will help me in so many different ways.” – Mariam Meite, Youth Activist Scholarship Winner

An African immigrant for whom English is a second language, Mariam believes that one person can make a difference in combating entrenched racism in our country. Mariam initiated dialogues about racism at her high school, and eventually started the Logan High School Multicultural Club. In addition to her activist work at school, Mariam volunteers in her community – she has been reading to children at the same day care center for four years.


“If we fail to involve the youth in our fights for equality and justice, we allow our fights to die with us. Young people bring an amazing amount of energy to organizations and causes…if you want to ensure success, get the young people on your side.” – Kristin Dobbin, Youth Activist Scholarship Winner

Acutely aware of the benefits of being part of the white middle class in the United States, Kristin has been tireless in sharing her privilege with others. She is a vocal advocate for the rights of the disabled; through her volunteer work, Kristin seeks to increase awareness, access and tolerance. Kristin is also actively involved in local politics, using her position as president of the West High School Young Democrats to speak out in defense of free speech, educational reform, and Gay-Straight Alliances.




2007 scholarship winnersThe ACLU of Utah began the student activist scholarship program for high school seniors to encourage youth in civil liberties endeavors.

Three students were selected to receive the first scholarships in recognition of their work as civil libertarians.

In 2007 - 2008, the first place award was $1,000 and the two additional winners received $500 each. All winners were then submitted to the national ACLU's scholarship program.

The winner of the $1,000 scholarship was Cara Cerise, a student at Highland High School. She worked energetically to create support groups for the children of lesbian and gay parents at her high school and at Equality Utah.

The two recipients of the $500 scholarships were Rachelle Harrison and Michelle Ripplinger.

Rachelle was a student at Hillcrest High School. She recognized a problem when she was only in the sixth grade that prevented students at her school from having equal access to educational programs. She gathered data and petitioned the school board to provide transportation for students who would have otherwise been excluded.

Michelle was a student at Ogden High School. Last year she discovered that a close friend, and an active Mormon, was struggling to reconcile his sexual orientation with his religious beliefs. She spent the year making Two Loves, a twenty-minute documentary that explores the stories of those who have encountered this conflict.

We want to thank the selection panel members who volunteered their time to read the applications and select our recipients: Laurie Wood, Marc Hoenig, Rick Okabe, Tarek Nosseir, Jackie Biskupski

Local Youth Activists are also National ACLU Scholarship Winners!

Two young Utah women joined 13 other youth activists from around the country who won the 2008 national ACLU scholarship in recognition of their local activist efforts. Cara Cerise and Rachelle Harrison, both of whom were winners of the ACLU of Utah Youth Activist Scholarships, received $5,000 and participated in a year long leadership training program with the national ACLU.

Cara Ceries UtahCARA CERISE

“I’m an activist because I know I can make a difference. As I finish high school, my activism will not stop. I see it as an ongoing process. It is my passion, my drive, my reason for living.”

Cara has been active in supporting LGBT rights and social justice throughout her high school career. She started the Utah chapter of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), a support group designed to “engage, connect, and empower people to make the world a better place for children of LGBT parents and families.”




Rachelle HarrisonRACHELLE HARRISON, 

“…I have strengthened my belief that it is important to defend the rights and meet the needs of all people. I have also learned that an individual or a group of individuals can make a real difference in the world.”

Beginning in the 6th grade Rachell started organizing to challenge a busing policy that prevented students from having equal access to educational programs. She was successful and her efforts have continued throughout middle school and high school leading the schools to adopt a more inclusive busing system.




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