From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Elliott Liebling
My action plan originated as a way to combat HIV/AIDS. I see the problem as two-fold: a lack of awareness in my community and the spread of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa. In an attempt to make progress against both of these issues, I founded a chapter of the national organization FACE AIDS at my high school as a student-run club. My original goals that I formed while at Brown were to provide information about HIV/AIDS raise awareness at my school while also fundraising for FACE AIDS and Partners In Health.
Through my school’s Club Fair and a couple of announcements, I was able to gather around a dozen other students and a couple close friends who were interested in helping. I also asked an Upper School history teacher, Ms. McMillan, to be the club’s advisor, and she was happy to do so. I held a few meetings and, together, we planned a bake sale and a dress down day where students and faculty pay $2 to not have to be in Rutgers Prep’s strict dress code. Through the two events, we raised over $850 that went directly to FACE AIDS to be used to fight HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. The club also encouraged students to call the White House asking President Obama to follow through on his promise to increase funding for fighting HIV/AIDS. This spring, I am planning on holding another fundraiser and I will also maintain a bulletin board with information about HIV/AIDS and club activities.
I am confident that my actions have made my community more aware of HIV/AIDS and more willing to take action against societal problems. Personally, I have gained much interest in HIV/AIDS and the societal stigmas attached to those who are HIV-positive. Currently, I am planning on studying either medicine or anthropology, hopefully dealing with HIV/AIDS in either field. I also learned about myself as a leader. I was able to start a movement within my school from nothing, stirring up interest and running meetings.
I owe much of my work to the Brown Leadership Institute. I was originally exposed to FACE AIDS by a member of the FACE AIDS national team who came to speak to my class. My teachers over the summer, Amara Ezeamama and Cate Oswald, were massive inspirations. Cate’s experiences in Haiti made me understand the depth of these types of issues ranging from medical to societal. This helped me learn very early on in the process something that is important to the FACE AIDS movement: the importance of putting a face to the issue. I was challenged by the course to realize that there are less fortunate people across the world and that we are often in a position where we can make a profound impact on someone else’s life.
The Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Action was also a vital part of this process for me. I was surrounded by like-minded young people who want to make a difference in the world. To see that I am not alone in the things that I try to do or change helped me stay focused on my action plan.