Franklin, Tennessee High School Senior is Among 12 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 23, 2001 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Tennessee
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Wednesday, May 23, 2001

NASHVILLE – – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today announced that Jonathan Eli Arnold of Page High School is one of 12 seniors nationwide to be awarded a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the struggle to defend civil liberties.

of Tennessee. “He has been a wonderful asset, and we are confident he will bring to the community at large the enthusiasm for civil liberties that he has displayed here volunteering with us.”

Arnold is perhaps the only high school student who has ever been featured in his local newspaper because his politics are drastically different from many people in his community. In March, the Tennessean ran an article titled, “”Page High School senior power-walks a liberal path.””

Eli, as he is known throughout his highly conservative community, has a well-earned reputation for defending the Bill of Rights. He writes letters concerning civil liberties issues to newspaper editors, volunteers at the ACLU, and organizes people in his community to petition against the death penalty.

“Before I began to volunteer at the ACLU, I thought I was aware of civil rights problems in Tennessee,” said Arnold, who will attend St. Johns College in Maryland in the Fall. “Truthfully, I was ignorant. I now am dedicated to the eradication of intolerance and the infringement of civil rights. My new-found moral and legal responsibility to my fellow citizens has been a direct result of my volunteerism at the ACLU.”

Last Fall, Eli contacted the ACLU of Tennessee when he learned that the organization was sponsoring a program about the death penalty. He asked the ACLU if he could bring non-members to the program. When they replied positively, he prepared and posted flyers about the event at his school and in his community.

Several days after the event, Eli called the ACLU office and asked if he could volunteer there. Since then, Eli drives twice a week to the Nashville office to volunteer.

While his school’s pastimes are sports and dances, Eli focuses his attention on increasing awareness of civil liberties concerns in his community. Eli relentlessly urges his peers and teachers to become active and attend ACLU activities. He credits his inspiration and drive to the “”extreme opposition.””

“”I get Jerry Falwell’s newsletter,”” admitted Eli. “”Reading it angers me, but I’m able to use that anger in a positive way.””

While Eli’s family does not support the ACLU, they do support his thoughtful choices and approve of his ACLU volunteer work.

“”It’s funny to think that my father is an NRA member, and I’m a liberal,”” said Eli, who would one day like to become a Supreme Court Justice. “”However, despite the many issues on which we disagree, my parents are very supportive.””

In addition to Eli, this year’s other recipients hail from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.

Many of the students selected stood up for the rights of their peers by challenging the injustices inflicted upon them by school officials; created an ACLU chapter at their school; or interned at the ACLU affiliate office in their state. In 2000, the first year of the program, the ACLU awarded scholarships to eight high school seniors.

“”The ACLU’s College Scholarship for Youth Activism Award gives us an opportunity to recognize the courage of students like Eli and the example they set for their peers,”” said Nadine Strossen, President of the National ACLU. “”It truly is an honor to be able to provide these intelligent, resourceful and committed young people with support for their education.””

To learn about the other winners, please visit our web feature at

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