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ASPiRE Students Present at Active Citizens Conference

On Feb. 18, 10 current and former ASPiRE students attended the 2017 Active Citizens Conference hosted by William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The conference brings students, faculty and community leaders together to learn about best practices for impacting community and mobilizing social change.

Jeree Thomas, policy director for The Campaign for Youth Justice, a national initiative focused on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system, was the conference’s keynote speaker.

Six ASPiRE students presented workshops centered around the conference theme, “The Daily Work of Justice.” Approximately 50 students attended each workshop presented by ASPiRE students, with topics including healthcare disparities, the impact of microagressions and using social media for student activism.

First-year ASPiRE student and workshop presenter Divya Krishna attended the conference for the first time this year.

“Presenting at this conference was an amazing experience,” she said. “All of the participants were so engaged in our group’s discussion.”

Former ASPiRE student Aila Castane contacted ASPiRE Director Erin Burke Brown to attend the conference again this year, and she served as a mentor to current ASPiRE conference attendees.

“As a third-time attendee and second-time presenter, the Active Citizens Conference continues to inspire me and motivate me to share my love for engagement and activism beyond academia,” Castane said. “Leaving the conference, my brain is always buzzing with innovative and creative ideas to be a better change agent for my community."

ASPiRE student Brittney Maddox said being part of ASPiRE has provided her with exposure to many opportunities.

“I am happy that VCU exposed me to experiences that I might not have had at another academic institution,” Maddox said. “Joining VCU ASPiRE gave me the hands-on experience and confidence to pursue the things I want to do post-graduation.”

For more information, contact Burke Brown at