Jessica Rodriguez and Yearim De Leon were chosen for their strong commitment to protecting and enhancing civil liberties in their schools and communities. They talk about the importance of community engagement and activism in this short video.
2017 Youth Activist Scholarship Winners
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 will each 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 25, 2017.
Jessica 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 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.