On Thursday, November 29th, JRLC hosted an event for Twin Cities college students at Macalester College. Part networking opportunity, part workshop, the event brought representatives from five area colleges together to discuss the intersections of faith and social justice advocacy. Angela Butel, a senior at Macalester and a Bonner scholar working at JRLC this year, took the lead organizing the event and built relationships on several different campuses to make this intercollegiate gathering a reality.
The students who attended go to Macalester, Hamline, Augsburg, and St. Thomas and are involved in interfaith initiatives on their respective campuses. Two campus clergy from the University of Minnesota came as well. Each college contingent introduced themselves and shared what the interfaith groups at their schools do. Then, over a delicious Middle Eastern meal, students socialized and learned more about each other’s work.
After dinner, I introduced the topic of human trafficking, the specific issue through which the students would develop faith-based advocacy skills. I outlined the problem of human trafficking in Minnesota and presented next steps for legislative action. Then Alison Killeen explained a role-play activity that would allow the workshop participants to practice meeting with their legislators.
Using JRLC’s Human Trafficking paper, suggestions for telling their story to elected officials, and advice on how to approach legislators with different positions, the students strategized in small groups for their mock meetings. Then came the fun part! Cody Nielsen of the U of M Wesley Foundation, Angela, and I acted the part of legislators who were opposed to, in agreement with, and undecided on the students’ position on human trafficking. The three groups came to each of us in turn and attempted to secure our support for funding for services assisting victims of human trafficking.
After the activity, everyone came together again to talk about what it was like to visit each of the “legislators”. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room surrounding legislative advocacy, and hopefully the exercise made the college students feel more confident about meeting with their legislators. As one of the “legislators,” I was already impressed by the persistence, civility, and compassionate advocacy the students showed in making their case to me.
Thank you to the participants from all five schools who made this event a success, and thank you to Angela for her leadership! You can find more event photos on our Facebook page. Looking ahead, we hope to have a strong young adult presence at Day on the Hill 2013!
- Eleanor Glewwe