Kalamazoo Student Wins First ACLU Youth College Scholarship

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 20, 2000 12:00 am

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DETROIT, MI — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the winners of a nationwide student activist 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.

The first annual ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism Award was created to recognize the efforts of graduating seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties and civil rights through some form of student activism.

ing expressive or creative because the rules clamped down so much on us and the administration purposely restrained student criticism through school press and in everyday school activity,” said Finchem. “I had to express what I felt, though the consequences seemed disheartening.”

Finchem challenged students and teachers to an open dialogue about controversial issues, and inspired others to protect and exercise their right to independent thought and expression. His work in the school district yielded changes to the school board, as well as a suspension of the “zero tolerance” policies.

“We’re very proud of Benjamin, and gratified that he was selected for the scholarship,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “He has set an example for students across the state to see that public service and free expression offer many rewards.”

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, circulated petitions, or organized rallies.

“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.

More information on “zero-tolerance” policies is available on the ACLU website at:
http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/n012000a.html http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/n120299a.html http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w051099a.html.

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