More than 120 college students from across Michigan registered to participate in the University’s second annual Advocacy Day on Friday, a one-day seminar designed to promote student empowerment in the social and political arenas through activism workshops.

Paul Wong
Mary Browning, a retired University staff member, speaks on the issue of fetal alcoholism as Dave Garcia, a gay rights activist, listens Friday at the Michigan Union.

State Rep. Chris Kolb and U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers, both Democrats from Ann Arbor, commenced the program by encouraging students to get involved in the political process.

“Lynn Rivers basically said that people are disillusioned with the whole political process but there are positive government officials that want to do the right thing – and it’s up to us as constituents to inform them of what we want and what we need,” event organizer and School of Social Work graduate student Hannah Enright said.

The day’s events, which were sponsored by Project SERVE and The Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, were structured around a panel discussion, two issue sessions and a mini-fair of activist student organizations.

LSA Student Government President Monique Luse, an LSA senior, spoke about the importance of incorporating advocacy in everyday life.

“Every day you are interacting with people who are negatively affecting other people in the world,” she said. “If we don’t advocate on behalf of those who may or may not be in that space, we’re not doing our job as good people.”

University alum David Garcia, who spoke on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, said activism is not just an issue of special rights for the marginalized minority.

“Until that middle majority starts to call their congressmen, we’ll not start to get our rights,” he said.

LSA junior Jerrilyn Thompson – who is half-Japanese, half-white – said she participated in Advocacy Day because of her interest in a variety of matters.

“I don’t think multicultural issues are portrayed well in the media,” she said. “The criminal justice system is (also) so messed up. Environmental issues are big me for me, too.”

Informing people about critical subjects is the best solution, Thompson said.

“In this society, I think people need to be educated more. In the media I think it should be biracial people speaking out. But I’m going to start with my roommates,” she said.

Enright summed up the day’s message by encouraging everyone to get involved.

“We want people to see that politicians are real people that you can have a relationship with. If you don’t talk to them, you can’t complain,” she said. “Don’t be a bystander, do something!”

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