Last summer, Democracy Prep Endurance High School 11th grader Aissata Diallo attended the prestigious American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Summer Advocacy Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The week-long program is an intensive learning experience that teaches high school students from all over America about contemporary civil rights issues.
Read Aissata Diallo’s essay reflecting on her time at the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute below.
What is the ACLU? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Whether the ACLU is achieving equality for the LGBTQ community, putting an end to mass incarceration, initiating privacy protection against government surveillance, or conserving the right to vote or have an abortion, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberty cases and issues in order to defend the rights of the people.
Last summer, I was granted a scholarship to attend the annual ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The ACLU hosts the summer institute to educate high school students from all 50 states on how to be advocates and leaders in their communities in order to make effective change. It was the highlight of my summer.
The program not only provided me the opportunity to meet incredible people from all 50 states, but it also allowed me to learn from inspirational figures like attorney David D. Cole and patriot Edward Snowden about what it really takes to be a civil rights activist. Furthermore, the ACLU made sure that everyone who attended the program had a chance to become fully educated on issues in the United States that mattered to them. I learned more about an issue that I care deeply about, the recent immigration and muslim ban, from great ACLU lawyers. The program was only one week long, but I learned so much. I learned how to effectively speak out about issues I care about. I also learned that no one is illegal no matter where they come from because we are all human beings.
Before April, I didn’t know anything about the ACLU or what it stood for. Now I’m extremely grateful that I took the opportunity to attend the summer institute program because it made me truly believe that I have the ability and power to make a difference. Our former president, Barack Obama, once said, “change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.” This is exactly what the ACLU taught me and so many others.