Monday, February 18, 2008

TEXT: Williams, MCLA, Bennington and high-school students staging political-action weekend

Stuart Burns ( -- 597-4849), Williams College coordinator of community engagement and special academic programs, has sent around to high schools and news organizations in the Berkshires and southwestern Vermont this news release:

HEADLINE: Willimas announces weekend for change

This weekend (Feb. 23-24), Williams, MCLA, and Bennington students intend to show that it is not only up to presidential candidates to bring about social change. Citizen activists have an equally vital role to play.

On Sat., Feb 23, the Williams Center for Community Engagement will host the second annual Berkshire Institute for Student Activism (BISA) Leadership Conference, on the Williams campus. The theme is "Framing a Second Bill of Rights."

During World War II, President Roosevelt called for a "second Bill of Rights" to free all Americans from fear and want. A generation later, Martin Luther King Jr. launched a human rights movement to
secure an economic and social Bill of Rights to end poverty and propel prosperity. The student organizers of the BISA conference believe that in 2008 the time is ripe to move toward this goal, with poverty worsening, but with hopeful political opportunities opening up.

The multi-college BISA conference is comprised of morning workshops on leadership skills such as presentation and negotiation skills and creating community coalitions, and afternoon workshops on pressing issues such as health care, immigrant rights, climate change, food security, violence against women, and promoting college access. The goal is for each student to leave the conference committed to work on one of the specific campaigns explored in the afternoon workshops.

The workshop leaders are experts from western Mass., as well as from Boston and Connecticut. Featured presenters are Randy Kehler, an organizer of the Safe and Green campaign to close the Vernon, Vermont, nuclear power plant; Chip Joffe-Halpern, director of Ecu-Health Care and an architect of the Massachusetts health reform; and Jo Comerford, program director of the Western Mass. Food Bank.

The day-long leadership conference, starting at 9 am, is open to all college and high school students and is free, with lunch provided. For more information or to pre-register, visit

The BISA conference is sponsored by the Center for Community Engagement and the Schumann Program in Democratic Studies at Williams.


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