Naperville, Illinois High School Senior is Among 12 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
May 23, 2001 12:00 am

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CHICAGO - - The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today announced that David Lau of Naperville North High School is one of 12 seniors nationwide to be awarded a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the struggle to defend civil liberties.

The ACLU's College Scholarship for Youth Activism Award recognizes the efforts of graduating seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties throughout their career in secondary school.

""We are very proud of David and his receipt of this scholarship,"" said Colleen Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois. ""His energy, his intelligence and his keen understanding of the interests and concerns of students in the Chicago area was of great assistance to us. We wish him well.""

David is receiving this award because of his many contributions to the ACLU of Illinois' High School Civil Liberties Project. Last year, he helped to establish the Project's Student Advisory Council (SAC) and worked with other members of SAC to formulate and plan programs for the project's first ""Know Your Rights"" conference hosted in November, 2000. David also put together a Teen Health Rights Guide, which offers guidelines on minors' rights to health care in Illinois.

While earning top grades at his school, David also volunteered his time to work at the ACLU and at the local Amnesty International; he has educated his peers about their rights and served as president of his school's political discussion club.

"Although teens are frequently stereotyped as being apathetic and oblivious to civil rights issues,"" said David, ""it has been my experience that if we are given an opportunity to take action, the participation level will be high. It is my mission to lead the new wave of student civil rights activism in this country.""

David found his calling to social activism when a social sciences teacher began teaching about a school lunch bill that was being debated in the Illinois State Legislature. David instantly became aware of the vast injustice that the bill hoped to end.

""While my classmates threw away two-dollar slices of pizza, other students just a few miles from us were struggling to eat,"" said David, who is on his way to Yale University in the Fall. ""My friend and I began spending our lunches and free periods in school calling up all the government representatives in the state to urge them to support the bill."" Much to the relief of David and his cohorts, the bill was ratified.

""I will readily admit that I am idealistic,"" said David. ""I realize that our phone calls and badgering were not the only reason the bill was passed. Yet, I felt I could make a difference.""

In addition to David, this year's other recipients hail from California, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Many of the students selected stood up for the rights of their peers by challenging the injustices inflicted upon them by school officials; created an ACLU chapter at their school; or interned at the ACLU affiliate office in their state. In 2000, the first year of the program, the ACLU awarded scholarships to eight high school seniors.

""The ACLU's College Scholarship for Youth Activism Award gives us an opportunity to recognize the courage of students like David and the example they set for their peers,"" said Nadine Strossen, President of the National ACLU. ""It truly is an honor to be able to provide these intelligent, resourceful and committed young people with support for their education.""

To learn about the other winners, please visit our web feature at

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