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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 12:07 am

Young activists host advocacy summit at UIS

 Glenwood High School senior Clare Farnsworth, 18, became interested in political activism after witnessing news reports of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, where 17 were killed and several more injured. Taking her cue from the Parkland survivors who became high-profile activists for gun regulation, she got involved with Action Illinois, helping to organize Springfield’s version of the national March for Our Lives demonstration the following month.

“After March for Our Lives we all decided we wanted to stick together and continue to do things like this,” said Farnsworth. This resulted in the formation of Youth Activists for Action Illinois (YAAI) which will be hosting “The Day of YAAI” on Saturday, Sept. 22, at University of Illinois Springfield. “We knew the next big project should be a big advocacy summit where we would start fresh and get new people involved.” Saturday’s event will include booths staffed by area groups such as Black Lives Matter SPI, Students Demand Action, Springfield Immigration Action Network and others. Speakers for the event will include Democratic congressional candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Action Illinois co-president Jennifer Lee and senior director of public policy for Springfield Planned Parenthood, Brigid Leahy.

“Putting the event together was hectic,” said Farnsworth. “It’s been hard to get everyone on the same page but it has also been fun and educational for us to learn how to organize.” In light of the current election season, a major focus of the event will be getting people involved in voting, including topics such as how to be an active participant in the voting process before the age of 18 through volunteering, why people should care about midterm elections and why people should care about local elections.

Representatives of the Cheri Bustos and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan campaigns will be at the event running a version of Bustos’ “Build the Bench” candidate training program to teach participants about voting, how to run for office and how to be active in the democratic process. Participants will then canvass for Bustos and Dirksen Londrigan.

Farnsworth’s passion for activism began at home. “I have a twin brother who is profoundly affected on the autism spectrum. That is why I was first introduced into activism and the idea of being a voice for people who don’t have one,” she said. “I am very interested in being a good ally and a good advocate.”

Advocacy summit schedule

Saturday, Sept. 22, at UIS
10-11 a.m.: Check-in and community fair
11-11:30 a.m. : Why we’re here
11:30 a.m. -12 p.m.: Civics: “Why you should care”
12:00-12:45 p.m.: Women in Leadership panel with guests Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, Brigid Leahy, Veronica Espina, Jennifer Lee, Anna Cianciolo, and Sunshine Clemons
12:45-2 p.m.: Build the Bench
2:15 p.m.: Canvassing begins

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com

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