The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah has selected three high school seniors in Utah to receive the organization’s 2013 Youth Activist Scholarship. The recipients will each receive a $1,000 scholarship, in recognition of their commitment to civil liberties through activism. The winners will be honored at the ACLU of Utah’s 2013 Bill of Rights Celebration on May 17, 2013.
ACLU of Utah 2013 Youth Activist Scholarship Recipients Announced
Since 2007, the ACLU of Utah has recognized high school seniors across Utah for their work protecting and expanding civil liberties in their schools and communities. The students are selected based not only on their activism, but also their academic excellence, leadership and tenacity in overcoming personal hardship.
The winners of the 2013 Youth Activist Scholarships include: a religious liberties advocate who has used her personal challenges to fight for the rights of polygamous families; a young Latino immigrant working to expand education opportunities for minorities; and an activist for sex education, who has spoken at schools, youth groups and public events to talk about issues surrounding reproductive health.
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. "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. "
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. “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.”
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, emailed 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. “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."
We received many excellent applications for this scholarship program; each applicant inspired us with their work to protect and expand civil liberties. It was a challenge to select only three winners! We are proud to provide this scholarship to high school activists who are working to make a difference, not only in their own lives, but in the lives of their families, friends, peers and neighbors. The scholarship winners will receive their awards at the ACLU of Utah’s annual Bill of Rights Celebration on May 17th.
For more information about the ACLU of Utah Scholarship Program and past winners, please visit http://www.acluutah.org/scholarship.html