"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Upper School Students Lobby for Change

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By Leitzel Schoen, Dean of Co-Curricular Programs, The Center for Peace, Equity, and Justice

During the spring Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) Lobbying Weekend, Friends students and the Center for Peace, Equity, and Justice collaborated with more than 500 young people from across the country who came together to lobby over 140 Congressional offices to pass the reforms included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. 

Building off the momentum from earlier this month, when the House passed H.R.1280, students met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill requesting that they take swift action against ongoing police killings and other violence against Black people across our country. This bill would ban the use of chokeholds, institute a national “necessary” use of lethal force standard, end the militarization of civilian police departments, and implement other badly needed police reforms like “qualified immunity” reform.

During the virtual Lobby Weekend, which took place March 20-22, 2021, students were able to hear from a number of guest speakers such as Senator Cory Booker, an original sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, and Representative Karen Bass, author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. In addition to plenary sessions, students and CPEJ staff had the opportunity to participate in a variety of breakout workshops. All were designed to equip participants to be effective lobbyists and advocates for social justice reform. Their last three appointments on Monday, March 22, when they met with staff from the offices of Representative Maloney, Senator Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand, were a testament to just how much our students had gained from this weekend training sponsored by the largest Quaker lobbyist organization, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

You may listen to Ananya '21 sharing her story from the conference main stage by clicking here. Her segment begins at 15:00.

Over the last three years, Friends Seminary has worked to strengthen this aspect of our civic engagement programming. Whether it be through in-school lobbying workshops, Service Committee letter-writing campaigns, the CPEJ-sponsored trips to Albany, or the collaborations with FCNL on Capitol Hill in D.C., Friends Seminary students are finding their voice as lobbyists and using their capacity to call for changes to public policy that would help bring about a world that ought to be. 

To this point, students are seeing the rewards of their efforts. On March 18 the HALT bill (Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act) was approved by the NY Senate—a resolution for which Friends students have been diligently advocating. The strength and leadership of the Asian Culture Club in recent months has led to multiple lobbying efforts with NY representatives concerning the provisions of H.Res.908, Condemning All Forms of Anti-Asian Sentiment As Related to COVID-19 (Now H.Res.151 in the 117th Congress). You may read a student reflection from Ananya ‘21 here on those efforts.

Students who participated in the 2021 annual FCNL Spring Lobby Weekend Youth Conference are listed below.

Ananya ‘21
Benjamin '23
Graham '24
Joanne '21
Julian '23
Nylu '23
Sanaa '21
Friends Seminary actively promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all its programs and operations, including admissions, financial aid, hiring, and all facets of the educational experience. To form a community which strives to reflect the world’s diversity, we do not discriminate on the basis of race or color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic background, physical ability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Friends Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
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