Fenton High School Senior Wins ACLU College Scholarship for Youth Activism

May 22, 2001

DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today announced that Alec Gibbs of Fenton Senior High School is one of 12 high school 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 careers in secondary school.

"The future of the ACLU depends on young people like Alec," said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. "It's wonderful to see a high school student working to ensure that we keep the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution."

As a youth activist, Alec took a leadership role in speaking out about important civil liberties issues within his school. In the wake of Columbine and the many zero tolerance policies that have since been implemented in schools throughout the nation, Alec has spearheaded efforts to educate fellow students and school officials about administrative polices that are adverse to the rights of students.

While earning top grades at his school, Alec also volunteered his time to work on ACLU campaigns, worked on his school newspaper and wrote countless letters to the local newspaper addressing civil rights issues.

Many people assume that teens are ambivalent about
civil rights issues," said Alec, who will attend Michigan State University in the Fall. "I have learned through discussions with my classmates, especially the
those that I disagree with, the common stereotype of apathetic and ignorant youth is not the case at all. We very much understand the issues and want to
become involved."

When Alec was a sophomore in high school, his school
administration began to implement conduct policies in reaction to the Columbine incident. He and his fellow classmates were introduced to surveillance cameras
and zero tolerance rules that targeted violence but had high potential for abuse by school officials.

As the opinion editor of his school paper, Alec began
to educate his classmates about the civil liberties they stood to lose with the new policies being implemented.

Zero tolerance policies that were put into effect after Columbine have had a damaging effect on the rights of students," said Alec. "Individual choice and freedom of expression are some of the most important rights we have as young adults. We stand to lose these rights and others if these rules go unchallenged."

In addition to Alec, this year's other recipients hail from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, 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 Alec 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."

The ACLU College Scholarship program was made possible by a generous grant from an anonymous donor.

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