Featured Fellow

YP4 Featured Fellow: Elena Swartz

Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a year-long leadership development program that helps a diverse set of student leaders turn their idealism into actions that advance social change on their campuses and in their communities. YP4 Fellows design and implement a capstone project called the Blueprint for Social Justice and work on social justice projects of their choosing. We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here.

This week, we’re pleased to introduce Elena Swartz, representing Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

Recognizing the importance strong voter turnout in order to foster positive change in her community, Elena chose to organize a Civic Empowerment Summit at Bryn Mawr as her Blueprint for Social Justice. The summit provided information on how students can be a voice for change through vote work on campus and in their community, and was strategically planned in the spring to help students plan their voter engagement work ahead of the upcoming fall elections. During the training, Elena shared strategies for effective campus and community outreach, volunteer recruitment, data management, voter registration and more. Elena’s project is so important because the right to vote is constantly under attack by those who want to disenfranchise certain groups of voters for political gain, such as students.

Across the country, states are implementing Voter ID laws that exclude student ID’s from the list of acceptable forms of identification, imposing strict residency requirements to register to vote and some are even requiring college students to travel to their home precincts to vote instead of casting a ballot near their campuses. By organizing and educating her fellow students, Elena is helping to empower young people to take a stand against these measures and strengthen our fundamental rights.

PFAW Foundation

YP4 Featured Fellow: Ariel Boone

Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a year-long leadership development program that helps a diverse set of student leaders turn their idealism into actions that advance social change on their campuses and in their communities. YP4 Fellows design and implement a capstone project called the Blueprint for Social Justice and work on social justice projects of their choosing.

We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here. This week, we’re pleased to introduce Ariel Boone, representing the University of California at Berkeley.

Originally from Davis, CA, Ariel quickly became active in student government and advocacy upon arriving at Cal. She was elected to serve as a senator in the Associated Students of U.C., and also was the Internal Vice President of the largest college political party chapters in California. Her passion for the democratic process began early – she has extensive campaign experience and has been canvassing and phone-banking for various candidates for years. As an advocate, she was a co-chair of the 2011 Western Region LGBTQIA Conference and is active with the CalSERVE (Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education) coalition, which works to promote civil rights, improve college affordability and other issues facing Cal students.

Seeking to improve fairness and transparency in government, as her Blueprint for Social Justice, Ariel wrote and introduced a bill in the Student Senate that would withdraw the Berkeley Student Government’s $3.5 million treasury out of Bank of America, and encourages the University to do the same. Ariel’s bill passed the Student Senate with unanimous support.

This action was prompted by the growing national effort to get major corporations to refrain from spending their vast treasuries to influence elections. Just last week, the shareholders of Bank of America called on the company to refrain from such spending and strengthen its disclosure practices. People who have a stake in Bank of America and companies like it – from shareholders to 401(k) enrollees and even students at universities like Cal – have a right to know if the corporations they invest in are using those funds to support candidates, causes or attack ads without their knowledge or approval. By withdrawing the Cal Student Government’s funds from Bank of America, students are sending a powerful message: like all Americans, young people are affected by the undue influence that wealthy special interests have in our democratic system, and it is time to do something about it. Ariel’s effort was echoed around the country last week, as students joined demonstrations at various Bank of America branches to add their voices to the call and telling corporations to stop spending money on politics.

You can read Ariel’s article in the Daily Californian about how to enact change by making informed financial decisions here.

PFAW Foundation

YP4 Featured Fellow: Johnny Buck

Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a year-long leadership development program that helps a diverse set of student leaders turn their idealism into actions that advance social change on their campuses and in their communities. YP4 Fellows design and implement a capstone project called the Blueprint for Social Justice and work on social justice projects of their choosing.

We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here. This week, we’re pleased to introduce Johnny Buck, representing Northwest Indian College.

Johnny Buck grew up near Priest River Dam on the Columbia River in central Washington state, and is a student at Northwest Indian College, where he focuses on environmental studies. Buck is also a George Washington University Native Political Leadership program Fellow at the Department of Education, a program designed to give young Native Americans the skills they need to be successful political leaders.

His goal is to apply what he’s learned to revitalize his tribe’s language and culture in the Wanapum Village and ultimately to benefit all Tribal Nations.

Young People For has been actively engaging the Native American community for several years. In 2009, Buck was a member of YP4’s Tribal College Leadership Program (TCLP), which brings together 23 tribal college students showing great leadership potential and seeks to empower young Native Americans to change their communities by connecting them to the larger progressive movement.

“My community is deeply rooted in culture, language, traditions and ceremony,” said Buck. “By helping to revitalize our horse culture and language, I have committed myself to the younger generations in my community.”

PFAW Foundation

Introducing YP4 Featured Fellows

Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a year-long leadership development program that helps a diverse set of student leaders turn their idealism into actions that advance social change on their campuses and in their communities. YP4 Fellows design and implement a capstone project called the Blueprint for Social Justice.

We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here. This month, we’re pleased to introduce Crystal Obiukwu, representing Ohio State University.

“My Blueprint is a program that will teach young women, specifically teens, about reproductive justice and how to advocate for reproductive justice in their communities… I want to live in a world that truly embodies progressive values. I want a country where everyone has the ability to reach their full potential. I really want a world that is democratic and people oriented.

“I’ve mainly been involved in the feminist community and the reproductive rights community on my campus. I am starting to get involved in anti-racist work and I’ve been involved with my schools Occupy movement. I feel like my life experience and my identity as a Nigerian American woman brings a new perspective. Right now my university is dealing with a lot of hate crimes and racism on campus. We had a person come to a Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi vigil with a gun holster to intimidate activists, “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray painted on the Black cultural center on campus, and swastikas and the n-word were spray painted on an Obama mural in an area near students and a predominantly black neighborhood. This all happened within 48 hours. Previously an Islamaphobic ad that was funded by an extreme right-wing group was placed in our newspaper.

“Activist, students, and faculty immediately held an impromptu meeting after the 2nd hate crime had occurred. Two actions and a list of 3 demands were created. The next day we had over 200 students and activist go to the board of trustees meeting to read our demands and make them address racism on campus. Our demands were 1) have hate crime alerts go out to students so they can be informed about racism on campus, 2) have diversity be a priority at Ohio State with a diverse body of students and faculty that is representative of the country’s population, and 3) inclusion not tolerance; we want a campus that is genuinely inclusive of all kinds of students. We also had a sit-in in our student union until our first demand was met.

“All of the great student activists around me who do amazing work inspire me. The fact that they can be both students and accomplish incredible things inspires me to do my best as an activist.”

PFAW Foundation
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