Claremont Student Wins First ACLU Youth College Scholarship

April 20, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES, CA — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the winners of a nationwide student activist college scholarship competition, awarding eight high school seniors $4,000 each for outstanding contributions in the struggle for civil liberties and the rights of young people.

m China and a volunteer with the ACLU of Southern California’s field department, was forced out of her public high school at the end of her freshman year because her school district misinterpretted the new federal immigration law. She had to commute over an hour to an unfamiliar private school. Lin refused to accept this discrimination and with the help of the ACLU of Southern California, started down a path of legal research and activism that ultimately enabled her to help other students as far away as Virginia who found themselves confronted with similar injustices as a result of the 1996 Immigration Reform laws.

“I told myself that I had to fight back and return with my rights intact and that out of all the legal resources in America, there had to be one who would help,” said Lin who will be attending Stanford in the fall. “I knew I had to fight the discrimination and that even if I failed, I would fail trying.”

Lin is helping the ACLU combat racial profiling as well. When a Driving While Black incident happened in Monterrey Park, a city that is predominantly Chinese, Lin called over a dozen victims and witnesses, who did not speak English, to get a full account of what happened and speak to the victims about reporting the incident.

“Shirley has displayed a fierce commitment to the values and the mission of the ACLU — traveling over five hours on a bus in order to make it to the ACLU office and carry out her work,” said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “Her personal experience with terrible immigration laws made her want to fight for social justice.”

Student winners from California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, and Massachusetts were selected based on the personal statements they wrote describing their reasons for becoming civil rights/liberties activists. Some students established civil liberties clubs at their high schools, while others participated in ACLU lawsuits, or fought discrimination and censorship.

“The next generation of civil libertarians will face new challenges as part of their ongoing defense of the Bill of Rights,” said Ira Glasser, executive director of the national ACLU. “This scholarship gives the ACLU an opportunity to recognize the bravery of these students and the inspiration they provide.”

The ACLU college scholarship fund was made possible by a grant from an anonymous donor.

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