The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

From The Ground: Christopher Newport University STAND

Evan Shively started his interest with international human rights during his time as vice president of STAND at Christopher Newport University. After graduating he spent a semester traveling the country talking about the grassroots driven changes happening in North Korea. Evan has spent time as a programs intern for STAND and is now currently awaiting to hear back from graduate school.  Evan is a guest blogger and the views expressed here are not necessarily representative of STAND.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” –Anne Frank

The busyness of life often prevents reflection. As I began my drive back to Christopher Newport University this busyness stilled and perspective filled my rear view mirror. The past five years of my life I had met thousands of people, became strongly involved with a student activism group through STAND, joined the non-profit Liberty in North Korea, traveled across the country, and formed lifelong friendships. One lesson however, seemed to form the epicenter of all my experiences; the power of student activism, of the ability of a concerned group of individuals to make a real impact in the world. I have been blessed to witness students across the country who not only refuse to be labeled as uncaring or selfish but who actively campaign to create a new label. To create a generation that does not stand by but stands together.

Student activism is contagious and passion speaks. This Friday, I was blessed to see this power firsthand and to relearn this lesson. I was able to return to the home I had created at CNU and to meet some extended family. The current STAND club at CNU was able to contact my former employer, the non-profit Liberty in North Korea, to bring out the southeast nomad team for a presentation. The southeast nomads are a team of three concerned and dedicated individuals from different backgrounds brought together by their common concern for the North Korean people. The nomads spend over 10 weeks driving by van across the country engaging students in creative ways. As the two activism teams met it was non-profit love at first sight, and I had the joy of being the bridesmaid.

I couldn’t hide the smile on my face as I arrived on campus and made my way to the student union to meet both groups during a tabling session. Two kind faces greeted me at the table, David; the STAND@CNU research officer with a goliath sized heart, and Ashton; who has a contagious giddiness about her. The two sophomores had just joined STAND and showed no lack of enthusiasm. They had brought their own dry erase boards with them and asked students to share what they were thankful for in order to bring awareness to the plight of the North Korea people. It was my involvement with STAND that lit the fire in me to get involved and I got to see that same passion in both of them. They were joined by the southeast nomad team, Brian; a man who both looks like, and has all the energy and enthusiasm of, a high schooler, Yoona; a Maryland native with the kind of warm spirit that draws people together, and Bernadette; a gentle soul who is the heart of the team.

The two teams became fast friends as we got lunch and decided to drive to a local nature trail. All six of us packed our way into the LiNK van and headed to the trail. While walking with Brian and David, we were stopped by two older ladies who were taking in some of the trail’s fresh air before their trip to the synagogue. This is a common occurrence when you drive a van with the words “Liberty in North Korea” on it. When we described the non-profit to them, surprise surfaced on their faces. One of them stated, “I had no idea students still did this kind of thing.” As we passed the time, she described her past as a leftover from the Vietnam protests. It was eye-opening to think of how her actions served as a foundation for the current wave of student activists. As we made our way back to campus we had a new source of inspiration.

The presentation took place in a medium-sized theatre in one of the newer buildings on campus. Around 40 concerned students showed up to the event to learn about the North Korean people and the change they are driving within the country. The STAND team was super enthusiastic afterwards and couldn’t wait to plan more events on campus. As the nomads packed back into their vans and said their goodbyes we all took a couple final photos to save the strong friendship we were able to form in only a day.I began my interest with international human rights during my time as vice president of STAND@CNU during college. It was during that time that I learned of the power of student activism. After graduating I spent a semester traveling the country talking about the grassroots driven changes happening in North Korea. I spent time as a programs intern for STAND and am now currently awaiting to hear back from graduate school.