Rowanne Mustafa poses with a "we will defend our communities" sign outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. 

This summer, West Haven student Rowanne Mustafa was one of several Connecticut youth to attend the national ACLU's Advocacy Institute Summer Advocacy Program. As part of the program, Rowanne joined hundreds of other high school students in Washington D.C., where they learned from lawyers, lobbyists, activists, and other experts working to defend the civil rights and civil liberties. The week-long program (formerly known as the "Advocacy Institute") culminated in students meeting with elected officials or staff on Capitol Hill, and an issue rally to bring attention to a cause. In 2020, the Summer Advocacy Program rally will focus on a cause selected by the 2019 cohort.

We recently caught up with Rowanne to find out what she has been up to since attending the Summer Advocacy Program. 

ACLU-CT: Why did you apply to be part of the ACLU’s Summer Advocacy Program?

RM: I applied through word of mouth. I’ve heard of the great things the ACLU has done and what it’s associated with. I also wanted to get more information on how to advocate for issues I care about.

ACLU-CT: What kinds of things did you do as part of the Advocacy Program? What did you learn?

RM: We went through a series of seminars and guest speakers associated with the ACLU. Throughout my time there, I learned about how deep racism has built America, injustices in communities other than mine, flawed justice systems, more about my constitutional rights, and most importantly how to advocate in a community where not a lot of activism occurs.

ACLU-CT: What was your most memorable moment from the Program?

RM: My most memorable moment at the Advocacy Institute would be when a friend and I had to sprint in the pouring rain from Dupont Circle (with Shake Shack and Krispy Kreme) and bumped into Ilhan Omar in the lobby, soaked. Also Jeff Robinson’s presentation.

ACLU-CT What kind of advocacy are you doing now?

RM: In terms of advocacy, I’ve been more involved in spreading awareness on the deep injustices in America, from using social media to one-on-one interactions. I’ve recently joined my town’s youth advisory board so I can use my voice to its full potential.