ACLU Announces 2003 Youth Activism College Scholarship Recipient

March 31, 2003

DETROIT – A Birmingham, MI high school senior has been chosen to receive a $4,000 college scholarship in recognition of his activist work in civil liberties, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today. The national scholarships were awarded to fourteen high school seniors from across the country.

Matthew Erard, an eighteen year-old senior at Wylie E. Groves High School in Beverly Hills, Michigan, has been involved in a myriad of activities, from hosting a website on censorship issues to writing on civil liberties for his school newspaper to chairing the Socialist Party of Michigan. He has fought the school district’s installation of Internet blocking software on school computers and championed the need for student representation on the school board. As a result of his activism, Matthew has been interviewed on both French and American television.

“There will never be a true labor movement, environmental movement, or anti-globalization movement in this country if those who advocate them are silenced through censorship, intimidated into inaction by government spying, imprisoned arbitrarily, denied the vote, or divided through government sponsored discrimination,” Erard said. “Without civil liberties, there is no more room for any other form of dissent.”

The 14 winners were judged on the strength and depth of their contributions to civil liberties and the rights of young people, the likelihood of their continuing commitment in the future, and the obstacles they had to overcome in their activist work.

“Matt is not one to shy away from controversy and has been outspoken and forthright about his passion for civil liberties,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director.  “He truly epitomizes the type of student who will become an ACLU leader in the future and it appears that he is heading in that direction.”

Scholarship candidates are nominated by their local ACLU affiliates.  Each of the ACLU’s 53 affiliates is allowed to nominate one student for the award; the nominations are then presented to the ACLU’s national scholarship selection board, which selects the year’s winners.

"I am inspired and impressed by the courage and commitment of our scholarship winners,” said Nadine Strossen, President of the National ACLU.  “It is a comfort to know that the next generation of civil libertarians is so promising.”

The ACLU’s Youth Activist Scholarship Award was created in 2000 to recognize the efforts of graduating high school seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to civil liberties.  The award, which is given annually, was made possible by a generous grant from an anonymous donor.