Parent Teacher Magazine Union County Public Schools Sept/Oct 2018 - Page 15

Monroe High senior fuels passion for social justice in ACLU summer program Monroe High senior Charleen Chavez has been passionate about social justice since she was in middle school and even plans to pursue a career in public policy in the future. So it probably wasn’t a surprise to most people when they found out that Charleen not only applied to attend but also earned a full scholarship to this summer’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Summer Institute in Washington, D.C. Over the course of eight days, Charleen joined nearly 1,000 other students from across the country for an intensive firsthand learning experience about social justice and civil liberties. During the program, Charleen and her peers had the opportunity to engage with activists and observe policy development on Capitol Hill. Check out what Charleen said about what she learned during her time in the program: On why she wanted to participate in the ACLU Summer Institute: I became interested in social justice in middle school, when I started questioning things around me. As a Hispanic- American, I noticed a lack of representation of people in power. All voices need to be represented in government in order to strive for fair and equal policy. I recently learned about the ACLU and that it is a nonpartisan organization with justice as its main pillar. When I heard about the organization’s summer advocacy program, I thought it was a great opportunity that I should pursue. On what they did during the program: The ACLU summer advocacy program included seminars and panel sessions with lawyers, journalists and professors who specialize in civil rights, immigration rights and more. We visited The National Mall, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korea War Veterans Memorial. Being with nearly 1,000 teenagers from every state who are passionate about social justice and the public policies that affect us was the most memorable part of the experience. On what she’s learned while in the program: I have learned that Americans have different views of what freedom is and that our various backgrounds and experiences help shape that view. The most important thing that I’ve learned is how resilient and bold teenagers can be when all is at risk and when there is something worth fighting for. That passion makes tangible change. Parent Teacher Magazine • Sept/Oct 2018 • 13