Touching stories of determination and integrity were submitted
to our Community Contribution Scholarship from high school students nationwide!
“That day at my school, Oxford High School, four students were killed and seven more were injured. As I sprinted down the snowy road with hoards of other students in search of safety, I was not overcome by surprise, only a removed understanding that it was our turn” Payton recounted.
After that incident, she decided to become an advocate for gun safety. Payton lobbied with March for Our Lives at the Michigan State Capitol. She quickly learned that what she believed were sensible gun safety laws, would not work with the house so divided. Determined to change this, she decided to take a more moderate approach that would attract the most people and would distance itself from the images of other gun violence organizations.
With 9 other Oxford students Payton founded a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization called No Future Without Today (NFWT). NEWT aims at bringing bipartisan balance that the students see as necessary to create change in their state of Michigan.
After countless months of planning, lobbying, and organizing, their biggest success came from partnering with March for Our Lives, in a March for gun safety, after the school shooting in Uvalde Texas. Payton and her team arranged an array of speakers including family members of the students who were killed in Oxford High School, Moms Demand Action, and Giffords Law Center. Members of the US Congress, Michigan State legislators, local politicians, and Michigan’s Attorney General attended along with over 600 people.
Payton says that “while it is one small step by a new nonprofit, we will not stop here.”. The non-profit aims at getting the community to reach mutual understanding and continue to fight for positive change.
They continued to lobby and support candidates up for election in Michigan who will support gun safety bills.
Andrew has observed numerous attempts at voter suppression in his home state of Georgia. He sees the impact this has had especially on people of color like himself. As a result, he took action by creating a nonprofit called Global-Glimpse.org.
Global -Glimpse.org educates youth about the policies that are created to suppress voters including restricting of opening hours at polling stations and the hardships it creates for hourly paid workers and others, as well as gerrymandering. “This advocacy has been vital in my community, which has a large population of immigrants, Black, and Latinx youth, many of whom didn’t receive the opportunities I’ve had, to learn about these issues”.
Andrew and his team write articles and create curriculum, lessons, and games around topics they present on and teach students how to register to vote before their 18th birthday. He takes his lessons to community centers and local high schools, teaching students American History and civics. For the past 4 years, Andrew has been a volunteer at the Garner Road Community Center, where he teaches students about the inequalities in our systems.
Lillian is a member of the Putnam County Family Domestic Task Force in Georgia and an advocate for youth facing domestic violence and other discriminatory practices in her community. In doing her research, she found out through the Georgia’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, that 49% of those murdered began their relationship between 13-24 years old.
Being aware of the high level of domestic violence that affects young people, Lillian planned and led an inaugural Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) program. This was very successful and had the participation of 95 of her peers from grade 9-12 and 10 adults attending the workshop.
She also arranged and had in attendance many speakers, including Victim’s Advocate for Putnam and Hancock County, The District Attorney, and the State Court Solicitor. The program included domestic violence statistics, signs of and types of abuse, as well as resources for those facing these situations. Lillian also led a Paper and Cleaning Products Drive for the Circle of Love Family Violence Shelter, authored a newspaper article about the TDVAM program and created a document for school counselors and 4-H personnel that work with youth. She also provided resources related to the LGBT community, which she stated are at increased risk of domestic violence and are least reported.
Lillian’s project is impactful and is widely shared across her community. She credits her leadership skills to her membership in organizations like SkillsUSA and the 4H club.