On January 24th, the eve of the legislative session, several dozen high school students spent their Saturday learning about the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP), which pushes students into the criminal justice system, and basic activist skills to fight it. They trained on how to be a citizen lobbyists and were able to speak to present and former legislators: Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Representative Angela Romero, Senator Aaron Osmond, and former representative and current director of Criminal Justice Advisory Council, David Litvack. Students acted out real-life stories of students who had been harshly punished for minor misbehavior, such as writing a best friend’s name on a desk. They also learned about their rights when facing school discipline, messaging, and how to write an op-ed.
In addition to learning about the STPP and how to be an activist, students were able to use their voices that day to speak up for themselves and their peers. They wrote letters to their representatives, they spoke to city council representatives during lunch, and they took part in the “whiteboard project,” where they explained why they wanted to end the STPP and why education is important. You can see their messages by visiting the Youth Conference Folder on the ACLU of Utah’s Facebook page or you can search #ylac15 on Twitter.
The Youth Leadership and Activism Conference was incredible; full of hope, passion, and energy. We appreciate the dynamic speakers and active participants and celebrate the youth activists in our community who planned this successful conference.