Activism: Taking a Stand Can Benefit Others (and You Too!)

By Jessie Smith on Monday, October 15, 2018

From the American Revolution and the Little Rock Nine to the many powerful demonstrations that took place this past year, young generations have spurred change throughout history. This fighter spirit helps point out flaws in the world and is the first step toward finding a solution. As a high school student, you may have already delved into activism through fundraisers, marches or peaceful protests, but you can continue fighting the good fight in your college years too. If you play your cards right, you may be able to use those hours on the front lines to change your own future as well.

Show Your Passion

Nothing is more fascinating than individuals who care deeply about their passions and show it. Pamela Bailey Bowie is the associate director for recruitment at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and while her university only considers GPA and exam scores in the admission process, she says organizations are increasingly awarding scholarships to students who can put activism on their applications.

“Many of the skills necessary for successful activism are the same skills you need to be successful in leadership across any industry,” Bowie said. “A student that can successfully organize a fundraiser is probably well-equipped to lead a marketing team developing a new image for a local brand or to be a good ambassador for future prospective students [at a university].”

When you translate your activist involvement into an application or resume, you need to write more than just the facts. Don’t be afraid to show why this cause meant something to you and how your role contributed to the movement as a whole.

“To successfully use your past activities, you must be able to articulate not only what you did but the impact it had and the lessons learned,” Bowie said.

Arkansas knows something about students making a difference. In 1957, nine African-American students attended Little Rock Central High School, a courageous act in the tumultuous wake of the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The Little Rock Nine go down in history as a huge turning point for Arkansas civil rights.

Be Genuine

On the flip side, you shouldn’t fake passion for a cause that’s not for you. Some forms of activism look cooler on Instagram, and some will bring you lots of friends.

While community and support are important to activism, you only hurt yourself when you pursue a path that doesn’t mean as much (or anything) to you.

Besides, others can tell when your heart isn’t entirely in your cause, and you can leave a worse impression than if you had chosen not to include activism at all.

Hannah Hill is the assistant director of admission at Hendrix College in Conway, and she loves to see students with passion who have dedicated themselves to a cause.

However, Hill said she personally wants to see that the cause is authentic to the student. She doesn’t want to read buzzwords or generic conclusions, and she gains a positive impression from genuineness.

Keep It Going

When you’re in college, you have access to open minds and educational resources, so you have every opportunity to take your cause one step further or explore other activist pursuits.

So find your passion. It may not be what’s cool, but if it’s what you care about, then that’s what you should pursue.

Then get involved. Raise awareness through a social media campaign or organize a peaceful protest or march. If your cause needs financial help, start a fundraiser. Be honest and transparent about your involvement, and maybe you can receive scholarships or financial help to take your cause even further.

You may feel small and helpless when headlines only highlight the worst of the world, but you have more power than you realize. Use your education to give yourself the tools you need and then leave the world a better place in your wake.

You’re the next generation. You’ve done it before.