ACLU Honors Two Florida High School Seniors For Their Commitment to Civil Liberties

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
August 2, 2005 12:00 am

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MIAMI — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today announced the winners of its Norman Elliot Kent Youth Activist Scholarship for 2005. Two recently graduated high school seniors from Ft. Lauderdale and Gulf Breeze were selected to receive $1,000 each to honor their outstanding work to protect civil liberties, especially the rights of young people.

The scholarship was created last year to recognize the efforts of graduating seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties and civil rights through student activism.

“”It is important to support young people and honor causes that preserve and protect individual rights and liberties, especially in a day and age when our rights are in jeopardy,”” said Ft. Lauderdale attorney Norman Kent, who donated the money to create the ACLU of Florida scholarship program.

This year, the ACLU of Florida awarded the scholarships to 19-year-old Mike Kettinger of Gulf Breeze and 18-year-old EdMarie Greaves of Ft. Lauderdale.

Kettinger formed an organization called Students for Justice after he witnessed Escambia County police officers beating two high school students attending a Valentine’s Day dance at the Hadji Shrine. The incident, which took place on February 11, left one 17-year-old student hospitalized and resulted in the arrest of three others. Shortly after the incident took place, Kettinger organized a protest calling for disciplinary action against the deputies, and distributed letters arguing that the deputies distorted the facts in an attempt to avoid reprimand.

“”Our main goal is to surface the truth about police brutality and injustice in our community, along with educating young women about rape, discouraging violence, and promoting racial equality in a community that desperately needs to be informed about all of these things,”” Kettinger said.

To promote Students for Justice and encourage students to speak out against brutality, Kettinger hand-painted dozens of buttons and stickers, wrote and distributed literature, including a column for the local newspaper, gave interviews to the local press, and traveled to Jacksonville to deliver a keynote speech at the annual Peace Awareness Day. He also created a Web site and e-mail address for the club, which recruited more than 300 members in the two months following the Escambia incident.

The club has continued to grow, and students have started chapters in five cities across the country, including three college campuses. Kettinger said he plans to start a chapter while in college. He recently graduated from Gulf Breeze High School and plans to attend the University of Denver in the fall.

Like Kettinger, Greaves is also receiving the ACLU scholarship for her role in raising awareness of civil liberties among her peers.

In her role as the vice president of her high school’s Student Government Association, Greaves coordinated a voter registration drive in an effort to encourage her fellow students, especially minorities, to become active politically. The registration drive was a success, and she said that many students went on to tell their friends and families about the importance of registering to vote. Greaves said she considers herself a budding civil rights activist, and plans to continue to participate and coordinate voter registration drives in college.

“”I know that change starts on a small scale and slowly spreads,”” Greaves said. “”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. toiled many years to achieve civil rights.””

Greaves recently graduated from Stranahan High School and plans to attend Florida International University in the fall. The ACLU of Florida is a private, non-profit, non-partisan membership organization dedicated to preserving constitutional freedoms and the Bill of Rights through litigation, legislation and education.

The ACLU of Florida is an affiliate of the national ACLU, which boasts a membership of more than 500,000 with approximately 26,000 members and supporters in Florida.

The organization’s principal office is in Miami, with additional offices in Tallahassee, Melbourne, Pensacola and Tampa.

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