ACLU of Hawaii to Present Youth Award to Student Founders of State's First Gay-Straight Alliance

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
July 7, 2003 12:00 am

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HONOLULU — The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii announced today that two Kalaheo High School seniors who started the state’s first Gay-Straight Alliance in the public schools are the recipients of its first Youth Award to promote awareness of civil liberties.

Shealea Tindall and Maile Shay-Mountain will share in a $1,000 cash award. Chief Justice Ronald Moon will make the presentation this Saturday in a ceremony at the State Supreme Court. Finalists Ian Tapu of Kahuku High School and Jennifer S. Jung of Moanalua High School will also be recognized at the ceremony.

“I am inspired by the courage and commitment of our co-winners,” said Patrick Taomae, chair of the ACLU of Hawaii’s public education program, which sponsored the award. “These students overcame significant barriers to achieve something that will benefit others long after they graduate.”

The ACLU’s Youth Award was created this year to recognize the efforts of public and private school students (up to senior year of high school) who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties. The award, which will be given annually, was made possible by a generous grant from Dr. Les Wilbur, professor emeritus from University of Southern California. Teachers, counselors, or community groups nominate candidates for the award.

The nominees were judged on the strength and depth of their contributions to civil liberties, the rights of young people and the obstacles they had to overcome in their work.

Tindall and Shay-Mountain worked for a year with school officials to qualify the Gay Straight Alliance but were initially denied “chartered” status. A chartered status would provide the Alliance with a faculty adviser, bank account and the ability to raise funds on campus. The school relented after Alliance members solicited ACLU’s assistance.

Finalist Jennifer Jung was instrumental in raising voter awareness and youth issues among her peers in all schools in her district. The other finalist to be recognized is Ian Tapu, who initiated projects at his school to raise awareness about the political process and current issues.

Molly Tafoya, who recently graduated from La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls, chairs the ACLU selection committee. Other members are Jackie Young, former state legislator; Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani, retired Buddhist Bishop of Honpa Hongwanji Mission; Josh Reppun, who teaches American history to high school students; and Jiro Arase, an ACLU board member.

“We know that youth are doing good work in the community,” said Vanessa Y. Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii. “By publicizing their deeds, the Youth Award can strike a spark in others to actively protect the Bill of Rights.”

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