17 October 2019

ProQuest Editors Revisit University's Activism Fellowship for High School Students

Intro Copy

In 2018, we blogged about Florida Atlantic University's (FAU's) Barb Schmidt Fellowship: Cultivating Community Involvement, Activism and Social Change.’ This activism fellowship offers high school students the opportunity to earn six university credits while developing the skills needed to implement, run and sustain social movements. The fellowship was inspired by the March for Our Lives activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, and other youth leaders. To learn about the progress of the fellowship, we asked Angela Nichols, Assistant Professor of Political Science at FAU. Below are her responses, condensed and edited for clarity and length. Is the fellowship on-going? Is it every year? Yes, the fellowship is yearly. We open applications in March and close in late May or early June. How do you select the students for the fellowship? We evaluate each applicant's interest, letter of recommendation, and commitment based on materials provided by the applicant. The students' answers to the questions in the application, as well as their letters of recommendation, are very important for our decision making. What are some of the issues the students are interested in? Students interests vary a great deal, from environmental concerns to gun rights to mental health to sex education. They also evolve over the year, as students learn more about their community. What are some of the student-run group projects? Last year’s fellows were divided into five groups. The areas of interest for these groups were microplastics awareness, inclusive and honest sex education, hunger, access to technology in primary and secondary education, and mindfulness and mental health in our schools. Two of the groups are still quite active:  Plastox (@plastox) and The Safe Sex Project (@thesafesexproject). The Safe Sex Project is planning their second summit now. Do the students get to meet any influencers or activists? If so, who have they met and why? The students were able to meet quite a few people last year: gun control activist Manny Oliver, chimpanzee expert and activist Jane Goodall, U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch, two-time Olympic gold medalist and activist for equality and inclusion Abby Wombach, activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero Brittany Packnett, activist and author Glennon Doyle, environmental activist and attorney Robert Kennedy Jr, former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth, the Student Volunteer Army from New Zealand, Beautiful Trouble, and I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. This year they will meet some of the same people and some new. We are still confirming some exciting guests. Regardless, though, the fellows get a lot of great opportunities, thanks to both our university and mindfulness and meditation teacher Barb Schmidt. How are the students learning to deal with the stress that can arise from activism?  This is actually one of the most unique aspects of this fellowship. Every meeting begins with mindfulness and meditation coaching from Barb Schmidt and Michelle Maros [Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life]. The students spend the first 45 minutes to hour learning practices for dealing with stress and negativity, as well as strategies for coping with the pressures that come with being brave. Barb and Michelle are incredible teachers and they really connect with the students. The practices they teach are simple and when used consistently lead to improved focus and a stronger sense of self-worth. They even have health benefits. What have you learned from the students? I have learned that this generation of high school aged kids is tuned in, brave, and ready to act. They don’t seem to harbor all the hang-ups that the generations before them do. They are open-minded and eager to engage. They want information and to think for themselves. Our fellows are wise and offer a great deal of perspective about our world. Links with More Information:
(Editorial note: Both authors are alumnae of Florida Atlantic University. Florida Atlantic University is a public university in Boca Raton, Florida, with five satellite campuses.)