Castro Valley Student Wins First ACLU Youth College Scholarship

April 20, 2000 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the winners of a nationwide student activist college scholarship competition, awarding eight high school students $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.

Francisco to Los Angeles, visiting youth drop-in centers, group homes, needle exchange programs, youth employment centers and the streets.

“Activism is a way of life for me,” said Gelender who will attend Mills College in the fall and plans to focus on law, journalism, and social welfare. “I think that in order to protect anyone’s rights, we must protect everyone’s rights.”

As editor of her school paper at Castro Valley High School, Gelender alerts her peers and teachers to the special protections and importance of freedom of expression. She has diplomatically and effectively kept her school administration from censoring potentially hot button articles on topics such as gay rights, sex education and the death penalty.

Last year, Gelender co-founded Spectrum, the first ever gay/straight/bisexual/transgender Alliance Club at the school. She is also a leader in the movement to stop the passage of dangerous juvenile justice state legislation.

“Shayna’s commitment to justice and equal rights and her ability to make things happen is unique,” said Dorothy Ehrlich, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “She is one of our most outstanding high school activists whose commitment and energy is inspiring for all those around her.”

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, and fought discrimination or censorship.

“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.”

Gelender is a reform Jew and belongs to the Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley. She teaches a fifth and sixth grade Jewish Ethics class and has also worked as a counselor at Camp Kadima, a Jewish day camp.

The ACLU college scholarship fund was made possible by a grant from an anonymous donor.

More information on Gay/Straight Alliances is available on the ACLU’s website at:

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release