Thursday, April 12, 2012

Utah High School Seniors Honored For Their Social Justice and Equality Activism

Through the Youth Activist Scholarship, the ACLU of Utah encourages high school students to get involved with their communities. Since 2007, we have awarded more than $15,000 in scholarship money to inspiring and amazing high school seniors from all over the state. Our many young activist applicants, after hearing of the scholarship opportunity through school counselors, community groups and social media, submit a simple application in the hopes of becoming one of three winners, each of whom receive a $1,000 scholarship to apply toward the college of their choice.  

In the early weeks of January, the Youth Activist Scholarship Selection Committee gathered to choose the 2012 scholarship winners.  Over the course of the evening, the committee – made up of teachers, professors, community leaders and students – reviewed and discussed the bevy of applications, each of which featured a student that has shown incredible commitment to civil liberties in their school and community.  After long and hard deliberation, the committee chose three winners that stood out among the rest: Gabe Glissmeyer, Patricio Panuncio, and Lincoln Parkin. 


Gabriel Glissmeyer
Hillcrest High School (Midvale)

As a student of color and a member of the LGBTQ community, Gabe has faced and overcome many obstacles in his life.  But rather than letting these challenges discourage him, Gabe uses his experiences to empower himself, as well as to help others who  face similar challenges.  For example, Gabe works to educate members of the LGBTQ community about the ill effects of tobacco; he turned the spotlight on “Project SCUM,” a tobacco campaign that sought to target members of the LGBTQ community in the 1990s.  Gabe also initiated the formation of “Advocates for Equality,” an all-inclusive club at his high school that provides a safe place for LGBTQ youth to share their experiences and work to promote equal treatment within Hillcrest’s halls.  With support from the ACLU of Utah, Gabe plans to continue his civil liberties advocacy after high school.  “In college I plan to tirelessly continue to fight for what’s right,” he says, “without backing down.”     

Patricio Panuncio
Academy for Math, Engineering and Science (Salt Lake City)

Not long after moving with his family to Utah from Argentina in 2001, Patricio began to feel the affects of discrimination toward the Latino community.  Rather than sitting back and enduring the discrimination silently, Patricio decided to take action in pursuit of equal treatment and protection for all people.   He helped to organize an action group titled “Still We Rise”, which demonstrated against HJR 24, a proposal put forth during the 2010 Legislative Session to ban Equal Opportunity programs in state employment and higher education.  When “Still We Rise” triumphed and the proposal, Patricio realized, “Change was at the tips of my fingers.”  Since then, he has shared his story on a radio show, testified before the state legislature, and participated in rallies to advocate for equality for Latinos and immigrants in Utah.  Patricio plans to get an undergraduate degree in Political Science, and pursue a career in Civil Rights Law.       

Lincoln Parkin
Weber High School (Ogden) 

As president of his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, Lincoln works to promote fair treatment for all students at Weber High, no matter their sexual orientation.  Lincoln is also an active member of the Ogden OUTreach Center, a program that focuses on creating a safe and welcoming community for LGBTQ  youth and their allies.  After learning about the “Pink Dot” campaign through the OUTreach Center, Lincoln worked to encourage Utahns to speak up for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends and family members as part of the “Pink Dot” effort.  A self-proclaimed “music activist,” Lincoln uses his passion for singing to work toward the goal of equality for LGBTQ people.  Lincoln plans to continue his dedication to music and activism in college.  

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! But 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 2.
                   
The Bill of Rights Celebration will feature various guests of honor, as well as keynote speaker Spencer Overton, of George Washington University Law School and author of Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression. This event is expected to attract more than 500 guests, who will come together to support the ACLU, and learn more about its role in promoting participatory democracy, transparent and accountable government, voting rights and a host of other important civic issues. To purchase your tickets or learn more about the Bill of Rights Celebration on May 2nd, please visit www.acluutah.org/bor2012

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