At the end of eighth grade, someone reached out to me and told me that they worked with an organization called STAND. She told me that they needed people to write op-eds against the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the International Affairs budget. I liked to write, and it sounded like an interesting topic, so I agreed. I had no idea that this would be the beginning of years of involvement with an amazing organization, but as I researched, I became more and more interested in STAND’s cause. When I entered high school, I joined STAND as a member of the Communications Task Force (which no longer exists) and wrote about various aspects of STAND’s cause for two years. This past year, I became a State Advocacy Lead.
State Advocacy Leads help mobilize students in their state to participate in STAND’s national campaigns by writing op-eds and blog posts, holding in-person events, directly lobbying state representatives, and working with Action Committees. This experience has been really exciting for me because I have been able to work with people around the country to bring STAND’s goals to everybody. I have loved learning about our advocacy and actually being able to make an impact on the issues I care about. Being a State Advocacy Lead is really empowering. One thing that was especially cool was being able to publish an op-ed on the GRACE Act, which would increase the maximum amount of refugees the country admits annually. I was looking forward to holding an event on the Global Fragility Act, which STAND also worked to pass, before quarantine started. Even though I wasn’t actually able to host the event, it was really amazing to see how the organization could impact policy and how I could help advance that.
I would have loved to be able to host more events, but it is hard to do that on a low budget. It takes a lot of time and resources to be able to put together an event. If every State Advocacy Lead was given $500-$1,000, I would use this to have more events to mobilize people to participate in grassroots advocacy campaigns. Even finding locations to have events can be expensive, but it is very helpful to gather in person to get people to commit to action. In addition, events can be effective tools to raise awareness about STAND’s issues, especially if they can include experts. Even being at an event where they learn about a conflict area can be the impetus for action from students. Because STAND is truly a student-led grassroots movement, it is crucial that we involve as many students as possible.
That includes anyone who is reading this. Activism is hard work. Most of the time is spent trying to convince people of things they either don’t want to believe or asking them to do things they don’t want to spend time doing, but it’s worth it to make even a small change. It is worth it to reach out to a hundred students if even a couple people get involved. I’m grateful that someone asked me to get involved in STAND. Throughout my three years with the organization, I have worked with amazing people to help save lives and prevent atrocities around the world. This experience has shown me how much power I can have as a student and what we can do collectively to make a positive impact on the world. If you want to be a bigger part of this and are ready to put in time to share STAND’s goals with the students and leaders in your state, please apply to be a State Advocacy Lead. We need as many dedicated, well-intentioned students as possible to work towards a more peaceful world.
Mira Mehta is a junior at Westfield High School and serves as the New Jersey State Advocacy Lead. Prior to this, she served on the STAND Communications Task Force for two years.