A Student Advocate Teaches a Lesson in How to Be Bold


Sara Graziano

Like many high-school students, Sara Graziano probably hadn’t given much thought to Supreme Court nominations until recently. But when the young New Yorker found out about the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, a judge with an extreme right-wing record, Sara became concerned. Gorsuch’s record showed that as a Supreme Court Justice, he would be in a position to threaten many of the rights that her generation had grown up with, including reproductive rights, the right to a safe workplace and a clean environment, and – increasingly, LGBTQ rights. So she decided to act.

Sara worked with the Outreach team at Alliance for Justice to come up with a simple way to get high school students involved in judicial nominations work. After she reached out to other students, she explained how each of them could get in touch with their Senators’ offices.  She used AFJ’s reports on Gorsuch’s record to draft a sample email for students. Incredibly, students from dozens of different high schools across the country sent targeted, personalized messages, explaining how the Supreme Court nomination would affect them. The students wrote from states as diverse as Arizona, California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Their emails asked Senators to consider their young constituents and to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Many of the students stressed the fact that Neil Gorsuch would serve a lifetime appointment, meaning that his nomination would directly affect the future of young people across the nation – their futures.

For those of us here at AFJ and Bolder Advocacy, it was an amazing moment. Our goal is to empower other organizations to be bolder in their advocacy. And there are tens of thousands of groups we’ve worked with, whether by conducting workshops, creating and publishing our resources or by providing assistance through our technical assistance line. But as much as we enjoy helping all these organizations, what really gets us excited is when we see young people begin to engage in advocacy.

For many years, AFJ has worked with college students across the country to highlight the importance of the courts. Through teach-ins and coalition meetings to First Monday campaigns, we have often involved younger generations in our work. Sara’s incredible mobilizing around the Gorsuch campaign proves how everyone, especially young people, can take action in current and future nomination fights. Federal judges serve for life, and as Sara’s work demonstrated, younger generations know this and are ready to work to ensure that the courts remain fair and impartial.

It’s true, Neil Gorsuch now sits on the Supreme Court. But AFJ and Sara framed the debate on our terms, raised many legitimate concerns with Judge Gorsuch’s record, and reminded the Senate that all of us, including the youth who are more engaged than ever, will be watching his actions on the court. The conversations we had helped remind folks about the importance of the courts, brought together organizations from various different movements, and, most importantly, provided an avenue for younger generations to enter into the advocacy arena. And for anyone who is looking to get involved in advocacy –  whether you’re a high school student looking to fight for what you believe in or an established organization looking to sharpen your understanding of the rules – Bolder Advocacy is here to help.