Kirkland teen receives ACLU award

Lake Washington High School sophomore Veronique Harris already has multiple years of experience engaging in activism, and her participation and leadership in that arena hasn’t gone unrecognized.

Earlier this month, Harris, 15, was presented with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington’s Youth Activist Award. According to a news release, the award “honors young people whose activism exemplifies work to defend and extend liberty and justice for all.”

“I was so thrilled that … they are acknowledging the work that I’ve done,” she said.

Harris attended her first protest in 2012, following the killing of Trayvon Martin.

“It was like nothing I had experienced before, and as soon as I went to one, I wanted to do more,” she said.

She definitely has done more during the last four years, from writing school papers to getting involved with the ACLU both as a communications volunteer and intern. She also attended the American Friends Service Committee’s Tyree Scott Freedom School, a summer educational program in Seattle which trains young people on how to dismantle systemic racism.

Attending protests is still a regular activity for her, from Black Lives Matter events to a Planned Parenthood rally to the student protests held following the presidential election. Harris was given the award not only for her own activism but for her ability to recruit others to join her at other events including Black Lives Matter protests and being part of the ACLU contingent at the Seattle Pride March.

Closer to home, as a freshman at Juanita High School, Harris founded the first ACLU-WA student club on the Eastside. The club organized a Civil Liberties Spirit Week highlighting a different rights issue each day, including free speech and voting rights. She also started another club at Lake Washington after switching schools and has created an online toolkit for students who want to organize ACLU-WA clubs at their schools.

“Starting the clubs brought a lot of awareness of different issues to students,” Harris said, adding she was impressed to see how many students were interested and engaged, diminishing the mindset that younger generations can be apathetic or ignorant when it comes to social and political issues.

Harris is going to continue with this trajectory into her career, as she plans to become a civil rights attorney, adding attorneys and others who work with the ACLU have been very supportive of her goal.

“The whole ACLU’s support is really cool,” she said.