If we expect future political leaders and social activists to understand our Democracy then we must engage them during their brightest life period… college. With the parties, sporting activities, and the depth of study assignments some would suggest it is impossible to gain the attention of college students for social issues and current affairs. However, the students at ULL seem to have created a bridge between races, classes, and common interests on the campus.
The NAACP is one of the oldest active Civil Rights Organizations in America but they have been able to evolve with the changing trends to inspire a new generation of volunteers and supporters. “Our chapter is full of cheerful members and supporters. I can honestly say they understand the purpose behind this organization and they are committed to fulfilling it’s purpose among their peers,” said Danielle Edwards, President of the NAACP Chapter at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “They are always willing to do whatever it takes to bring awareness to issues which affect people of color but to also unite students of all races on our campus,” she explained during a brief phone conversation.
“I come from a small town and there wasn’t much real diversity. The NAACP here has taught me to honor and respect people of all races and learn about their pasts,” said Diamond Wiley, a student from Monroe, LA attending ULL.
The college actually has a full facility dedicated to being a headquarters for nearly 30 on-campus organizations, which are allowed to meet regularly, discuss issues, and plan events in which they are allowed to host on campus as long as the intention is not to offend. The facility, located near their Student Union on campus, is a huge open floor with cubicles for each campus organization. Some of the organizations represent Women’s Rights, LGBT, Christian Students, Muslim Students, and the NAACP to name a few.
“This university is real big on diversity and allowing students to have a voice. It’s one of the things most students fall in love with when they first visit ULL,” said Brent Bailey, a student from New Orleans, LA. “I really believe we have to not only be social media activists but also physical activists. We have to commit every day to connect with each other and heal our cities. This has inspired me to go back to New Orleans and help my local chapter when I graduate,” he said.
The ULL Chapter is very active. In fact, they are so active they have to do fundraisers on campus to be able to afford many of their big ideas. Students of all races have been loyal supporters of their events and fundraisers. Recently, the chapter members had Bake Sales throughout the campus to generate funds for upcoming events. Their events draw huge crowds and are even supported by non-students.
Most recently, they held a Know Your Rights Forum on campus. Leaders and guest speakers broke down the meaning of laws and answered questions about rights in which many students were either unfamiliar or misinformed. One of their biggest results came from an event called “Uncomfortable Truths”. Staff and Students came together to discuss topics that most people are silent about on the campus. A more clear understanding social concerns was presented and many times the comments and perspectives were informative and educational.
When they have events on campus, like the Bake Sale, students have no problem volunteering in shifts to do their part. “I just joined this semester and I helped with the MLK event. It has inspired me to be more active in the local community to help bring all people together,” said Viche Stevenson, an NAACP member from New Orleans, LA.
Sye Farve, another chapter member from New Orleans, says their work is visible on the campus. “It feels like we are making a difference. At one time blacks couldn’t even enroll at these schools. We have many white supporters who have donated and helped us. When they stop by our table we get a chance to share our purpose with them. Non-black students have overwhelmingly encouraged us, attended our events, and many make contributions to help advance our chapter,” said Farve.
The students have a few months left in this Semester but they know their work doesn’t end when the semester ends. They all agree. They must use the energy they have fueled on campus to transform the minds of their disengaged peers when they return to their home communities.
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