"Being a civil liberties activist isn't about the big events for me anymore. It's about the harder conversations I have with someone who doesn't share my views or having the courage to put friendships on the line for my beliefs in what is right."
Congratulations to Angelina Momanyi. Earlier this month the ACLU of Minnesota announced that the Blake School senior was a recipient of the 2008 ACLU Youth Activist Scholarship. She is the first-ever winner from Minnesota of this national honor, which is awarded to 15 seniors from across the country each year. As a peer educator with Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis, Angelina volunteered 230 hours during the 2006-07 school year to training high school students to be educators in reproductive health and providing them with opportunities to teach in area schools, churches, and community centers.Prior to attending the Blake School in eighth grade, Angelina was in the Minneapolis Public Schools system, which does not have a strong sexual-education program, she said. "I never got it [comprehensive sex education] in school," she said. "A lot of my friends still don't have that confidence and the correct information."Angelina called the "regression" of sexual education in the United States "counterintuitive," noting that teen pregnancy rates have increased in the last few years, after a long period of decline. The birth rate among 15-19 year-old girls rose 3 percent in 2006 after declining 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.In addition to speaking with state representatives about comprehensive sexual education in public schools at the 2007 Minnesota Youth Lobby Day, Angelina helped plan the 2008 Youth Lobby Day as well, which was held April 8 at the Capitol.The youth who participated April 8 lobbied for the passage of the Responsible Family Life and Sexuality Education Programs bill, authored by Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis, and introduced in the House last month. The bill would require public schools to provide sexual education that emphasizes abstinence while also including education about contraception and disease prevention.Since 2000, the ACLU has awarded scholarships annually to honor the efforts of graduating seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties and civil rights through student activism. Along with 14 other high-school seniors from across the country, Angelina received a $5,000 college scholarship. She will attend Macalester College next year and plans to pursue a career in public health and policy-making. Click here and scroll down to read her scholarship essay.