Kopenhaver Center partners with SPLC – “Active Voice”


SPLC launches Active Voice Fellowships to provide support targeted to embattled young women in high schools


July 12, 2016
Contact: Frank D. LoMonte, Executive Director
director@splc.org or 202-785-5450

Responding to research documenting that high school girls report alarming rates of direct institutional censorship and pressure to “self-censor,” the Student Press Law Center today announced its first wave of Active Voice Fellows, college students who will be paid to create “press freedom service projects” in their communities.

The inaugural class of Fellows will begin work with the start of the fall 2016-17 school term. They are:

Darlene Aderoju, a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Nashwa Bawab, a junior at the University of Texas-Austin.

Sunshine Cho, a sophomore at the University of California-San Diego.

Sophie Gordon, is a junior at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

Sindhu Ravuri, a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley.

Fellows were chosen from a nationwide pool in a competitive application process based on demonstrated commitment to press freedom and women’s empowerment, ability to communicate the needs of teen journalists to a larger audience, and creativity in designing concepts for Active Voice projects. Each fellow will design and implement a project of her own choosing, with help from SPLC-recruited mentors from the legal and communications fields, aimed at advancing the welfare of students who face adversity in speaking about issues of public concern. The fellows will blog about their projects at www.theactivevoice.org over the course of the school year, and present their findings in April 2017 at the Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication at Florida International University.

“We’re incredibly excited by the depth of talent and creativity that Active Voice is bringing to bear on the problems that young women face when trying to report and write about issues of social and political concern in schools,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “This group of young women, and others to follow in future years, will be the ‘First Amendment’s first responders’ in communities across the country, helping bring wider public attention to the stories of students whose ideas are devalued by school censorship. Active Voice will be a change-making initiative that starts an overdue conversation about the disempowering climate in schools.”

Research by the University of Kansas released in March 2016 documents that girls are significantly more likely than boys to report that their schools have declared entire subjects – including (according to the survey results) substance abuse, religion and LGBT rights – off-limits to be discussed in student media, and that they are twice as likely as boys to “self-censor” in fear of adverse reaction from school authorities.

“We know that the dearth of female leadership in the communications and legal fields is not primarily a ‘pipeline problem’ anymore, since colleges are producing plenty of female graduates, but we also know that young women are being discouraged at a crucial formative age from asserting themselves as leaders and voicing opinions on the issues they care about. This is a ‘speed bump’ in young women’s professional and civic development that better policies at the state and district levels can remove. Active Voice is an accelerator. It’s about removing speed bumps and empowering young women to be vocal participants in the social and political issues on which all young people deserve to be heard,” LoMonte said.

The Active Voice Fellowship program is receiving financial support from the Park Foundation, a philanthropic benefactor of media and educational initiatives since 1966. The SPLC is seeking sponsors for fellowship positions this year and into the future; information about becoming a sponsor is available at www.theactivevoice.org.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Student Press Law Center is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1974 to provide free legal assistance and training tailored to the needs of student journalists and journalism educators at the college and K-12 levels nationwide. Information about the work of the SPLC and an array of free legal research materials can be found at www.splc.org.

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