2008 Youth Scholar - Angelina Momanyi, The Blake School, Minneapolis, MN
"Angelina is a talented and accomplished young woman who has dedicated much of her young life to fighting against racism and for women's rights. It is clear that she is just beginning to accomplish amazing things."
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Angelina Momanyi passionately gives her time to educating her fellow students about their reproductive rights. As a peer educator in the Planned Parenthood of Minneapolis, MN, Angelina trains high school students to be reproductive health educators and provides them with opportunities to teach in area schools, churches, and community centers. Angelina is deeply devoted to expanding reproductive freedoms, volunteering 230 hours during the 2006-07 school year, leading to her being honored as the peer educator council's "Outstanding Advocate." Angelina participated in the 2007 Minnesota Youth Lobby Day to speak with state representatives about comprehensive sexual education in the public schools. The experience was so meaningful to her that she volunteered to organize the reproductive freedom efforts for the Youth Lobby Day in 2008. Angelina also participates in "Get Out the Vote" efforts at colleges in the Minneapolis area.
Angelina's Scholarship Essay
During my freshman and sophomore years in high school the only radio station my mom and I could agree in was Minnesota Public Radio. She liked it for the news and traffic reports and I used to like it because I could tune out. I started hearing stories on things we were covering in my social studies classes so I started to listen a little more. Pretty soon I needed to listen to MPR every morning or I would feel like I wasn't prepared for my day. I became informed, which for me meant talking a lot. I started going to clubs, joining model UN, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the school newspaper and Student Diversity Leadership Club. Because of my schools resources, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my biggest influences in activism, Jonathan Kozol. I've always known education is essential in reducing poverty and raising the quality of life for people on a large scale, but reading his books and getting to speak to him about his experience in the education system really made me think about where I was and what I should be doing to change the inequalities that many people face.
During the school year, I work as a peer educator in a group through Planned Parenthood called Teen Council. I love to learn, talk and teach, and Teen Council is a program that trains high school students to be reproductive health educators and provides them opportunities to teach in area schools, churches, community centers and other events. One of the causes we as a group took up was to pass legislation in the Minnesota congress to set standards for how sex education is taught in Minnesota. I believe that Minnesota should enact a standard for comprehensive sex education. I had the opportunity to visit the capital and participate in "Youth Lobby Day," an event put on by Planned Parenthood to allow youth from Minnesota to meet with each other and their elected representatives. It was an amazing experience. I got to network with other teens who wanted to see the initiative passed just as much as I did and I got to talk with the people who could make it happen. That afternoon the bill, which included our initiative, passed. I've never been so proud of an organization of which I am a part.
I was unhappy with one aspect of the day: there were no more than 100 students at the event. When I bring up how upset I was about how the legislation was cut at the last minute from the education bill, most people other than my peers and colleagues at Planned Parenthood have no idea what I'm talking about. When I inform them about the funding for abstinence-only programs, and that studies show its ineffectiveness and how a former surgeon general even agrees that comprehensive sex ed should be taught in schools, they are first angry and then surprised. So often we allow ourselves to go along for the ride without taking a look under the hood or wondering where we'll end up.
I began to realize how dangerous it is to be uniformed. I started to take leadership roles in GSA and SDLC and began realizing my role as an educator in my personal life. I wrote more serious opinion pieces for the newspaper on topics such as abortion and racism in my school community. While being an out front, "on stage" leader in my school concerning civil liberties has been important to me, the personal conversations about important issues of inequality and injustice in the world have had a greater impact. For me, being a civil liberties activist isn't about the big events 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.