Readfield, Maine High School Senior is Among 12 Winners of ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PORTLAND, ME – – The Maine Civil Liberties Union today announced that Eric Webster of Maranacook Community 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.
ble place,” said Sally Sutton, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “We are very pleased that Eric’s diversity work has been recognized by the ACLU.”
Eric is receiving this award largely because of his long-standing commitment to diversity. Since the eighth grade, Eric has participated in the Diversity Leadership Institute, an annual summer training workshop that is sponsored by the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine. During the remainder of the year, Eric frequently makes presentations to other young people to help them understand how intolerance feels and how to become effective allies in the struggle for human rights.
“”Eric’s work in diversity education couldn’t be better timed,”” Sutton said, “”in a state with a reputation for having few ethnic minorities.”” “”That demographic is changing rapidly as areas of the state have been designated destination sites for refugees and immigrants.””
Last year, Eric’s exemplary work through the Diversity Leadership Institute attracted the attention of Barney Berube, a diversity coordinator for Maine’s Department of Education. Mr. Berube was so impressed with Eric’s ability to communicate diversity awareness with other students that he invited him to design and teach diversity programming at a summer retreat for refugee students new to Maine. Eric did such a good job that he was invited back for this year’s retreat.
“The work that I have done has had an incredible impact on my life,” said Eric, who will be attending the University of Puget Sound in Washington this Fall. “The opportunity to truly make a difference is something that a high school student needs in his or her life. I feel fortunate having been able to do so.”
While earning top grades at his school, Eric also found time to participate in an improvisational theater project call MCSIT (pronounced “”MIX IT””), which approaches diversity work in a unique way. The troupe performs primarily at schools; audience members help shape the action, finding ways to resolve the conflict presented to them.
“What is so exciting about interactive theater is that it can really get the audience involved,” said Eric. “You just have to draw them out, and make sure they feel the environment is a safe and positive one. Once those foundations are laid, the possibilities are endless.”
In addition to Eric, this year’s other recipients hail from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, 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 Eric 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 http://archive.aclu.org/features/f052301a.html.
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