Lower school activists organize fundraiser for local nonprofits

Fourth grade activists raised $400 with holiday card sale.
By Sierra Smith, Communications Specialist

At the start of each academic year, students in Lower School’s Young Activist Club identify a few key causes that they’ll focus on throughout the year. This year’s fourth-grade activists chose climate change, supporting the LGBTQ community, and supporting refugees and immigrants new to Nashville. 

"These are things that like maybe not that many people our age know about, but we wanted everyone to learn more about," Ryan Ricks '31, a member of the club, explained.

In addition to learning more about these topics during club meetings, members plan and lead opportunities to educate classmates and others about what they’ve learned and find ways to use the tools and skills they have to support the three causes chosen. In December, Young Activist Club members learned about local nonprofit organizations with similar goals to theirs. As a result, they discovered that Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Launch Pad were doing exceptional work to support immigrants and LGBTQ youth, respectively. 

Seeing existing organizations leading such powerful initiatives inspired the young activists to find a way they could contribute from their classrooms. The fourth graders put their linocut skills to work designing, carving, and printing holiday greeting cards and held a sale inviting faculty and families to purchase their one of a kind designs. As teachers shopped or picked up preordered cards, the activists practiced their advocacy skills as well by offering information they’d learned about LGBTQ youth homelessness and the difficulties refugees face even after fleeing their home countries. 

At the close of the sale, the Young Activist Club was able to make donations of $200 to both NICE and Launch Pad.

"My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the USN community for supporting these wonderful Nashville organizations, but more importantly, for validating and encouraging these passionate young activists. The support and enthusiasm our students receive cements their dedication to change at this young age," Third Grade Teacher & Young Activist Club Advisor Sarah Wiley said. 

"I always wanted to be in Young Activist Club, so now that I finally am, it feels really great to be able to help people," Ryan shared. 

Young Activist Club was started during the fall 2020 semester as an After School program to provide young students with age-appropriate opportunities to participate in civic engagement and social justice advocacy. The club emphasizes student-led initiatives challenging its members to think critically and find empowering solutions for affecting change. Now in its third year, other club activities have included letter writing to representatives, organizing a meatless Monday in Sperling Cafeteria, leading conversations in community meetings around the need for racial restorative justice, and conducting collection drives to provide people experiencing homelessness with basic necessities. 

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University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.