Meet Emma, a senior at the Paideia School, equipped with a passion and spirit to effect change. Not only is she the founder of her school’s immigration activism club, but she is also a member of the Planned Parenthood Teen Action Group, and a graduate of Social Innovators Academy (SIA).

Emma credits her passion for social activism to her parents and the environment in which she was raised. As she got older, her natural inclination to help others only grew, especially after taking a course on race and gender equality in middle school. This class, which examined the real-world problems shaping society, opened Emma’s eyes to some hard truths.

Emma and GivingPoint’s Amy Gates-Stroud

“I learned more about the facts of injustice rather than simply feeling it. I actually became very angry, because even though I had a social justice-oriented view, I didn’t fully understand the level of injustice in our world,” said Emma.

The knowledge and insight Emma gained through the class served as a catalyst for her involvement in social activism as she dove into a variety of social justice ­­issues. With the 2016 election taking place at the time, she was inevitably drawn to the immigration issue sweeping the nation. For her class project, she visited the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia where she met with an individual deemed an immigrant detainee.

“I immediately felt very attached to the issue because visiting the Stewart Detention Center is such an emotional experience. These people who want a better life are being punished for that dream and worse, it’s privately owned. It’s truly upsetting that people are profiting off of that pain.”

Following the election, Emma began organizing groups of visitors to the detention center in order to educate people about what immigration actually looked like in our country.

“I wanted to send a message to young people that we’re not going to buy into this message that immigrants are the enemy. We’re not going to buy the idea, that we need to be pointing our anger downward. We need to be pointing our anger upward toward those in power, so I did this by organizing these groups.”

From there, Emma founded her school’s immigration activism club as a freshman. In addition to visiting the Stewart Detention Center, they worked on political advocacy projects such as letter writing sessions and community service projects.

The Paideia school service coordinator, after seeing how involved Emma was with social activism, recommended SIA. The resulting support system and tools provided through SIA empowered Emma with not only helpful resources but a network of like-minded individuals and the confidence to keep pursuing her passion.

“Every time I left a workshop, I felt so much more confident. The staff are amazingly supportive, hard-working, and very dedicated to what they do. It is extremely empowering to be around other people who are motivated to take action and give back. It makes you feel good about what you’re doing.”

Emma’s school immigration activism club, now expanded to the Young Immigration Activists of Atlanta, is organizing a conference to further build their network.

“I decided I wanted to put all of our energy into a conference, where people from all across Atlanta can attend. We can work to create an action plan and a network of people who care about immigration, who are energized, and aren’t buying into this ‘immigrants are the enemy’ message.”

A culmination of Emma’s dedication to immigrant rights and her SIA journey, the conference will take place on November 17 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and the deadline to RSVP is October 21. If you are interested in attending or learning more please visit the Young Immigration Activists of Atlanta ‘s blog.

If you, or someone you know, would like to put your passion to action and find out more about the Social Innovators Academy, we would love to hear from you.

Please email one of our Program Associate Managers: