Far too often, young people in the pro-life movement are referred to as “future pro-life leaders.” While that statement is undeniably true, it omits the current impact young people are having across the country. Young people are not just the future, we are the present!
Young people are stepping up to share the pro-life message at their high schools, college campuses and through social media. Young people constitute the overwhelming majority of the attendees at the annual March for Life. Young people are volunteering their time at local pregnancy centers and taking on key roles within local right-to-life chapters.
Equipping young leaders with the skills and knowledge to carry the pro-life movement into the future is critical for long-term success. For this reason, National Right to Life created an innovative program called the National Right to Life Academy.
The National Right to Life Academy empowers young pro-life leaders through a dynamic five-week summer course held at National Right to Life headquarters in Washington. Students are challenged not only in learning the arguments but also effective communication skills and grassroots organizing. Topics covered include abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, healthcare, legislative strategy, history of the pro-life movement, medical ethics, development of the unborn and lobbying.
Through the National Right to Life Academy, students also have the opportunity to earn 3 college credits, which may be transferred to their university.
Since its inception in 2007, the National Right to Life Academy has graduated nearly 75 students. Many of these graduates are currently making a difference through state or local right-to-life groups, college pro-life clubs or pregnancy resource centers.
Devyn Nelson, a 2010 graduate and current Executive Director for North Dakota Right to Life, noted, “The National Right to Life Academy served me well in preparing me for this position. Not only did the Academy give me a thorough understanding of all the life issues, it helped me become comfortable and confident in speaking the truth about the life issues in public.”
Chelsea Shields, a 2011 graduate and the new Legislative/PAC Director for Wisconsin Right to Life noted,
“While lectures and practicum require a great deal of stamina and brainpower, the whole experience prepares Academy students to be highly effective advocates for life.”
Speaking as a graduate myself, I can testify that nothing has had a greater impact on my pro-life advocacy than the National Right to Life Academy. The program gave me the tools and knowledge to take my deeply held pro-life convictions and put them to work to make a real difference. Even now as I work full-time in the right-to-life movement and blog for LifeNews, I continue to draw upon the lessons learned at the Academy.
Each of us in the pro-life movement has a part to play. We each have unique gifts and talents that can be used to share the pro-life message. It’s up to us to get off the sidelines and take action.
I am reminded of the inspiring charge of late Father Richard John Neuhaus; “Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration…And, in this the greatest human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.”