Shivani Alamo: Mentoring the New Generation
Shivani Alamo, a student at Stetson University College of Law, has won the prestigious Lewis Hine Award for her volunteer work with children.
Alamo received the New Generation Award, a special Lewis Hine Award for Service to Children and Youth, named for the National Child Labor Committee photographer who documented early 20th century exploitation of children to facilitate child labor reform.
Traveling to New York to accept the award was a homecoming for Alamo, who grew up in the city and attended high school at the Community School for Social Justice. There, Alamo explained, she simply took much of New York’s social inclusiveness for granted. It was not until Alamo came to Florida as a college student more than five years ago, that she said she noticed a palpable need for social justice advocacy in her new community, especially among young people. It was then that she began to focus on mentoring and improving the lives of teenagers.
Alamo began working with Community Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she assisted the ANYTOWN program, a five-day residential program for young people that encourages youth leadership and diversity education. Stetson Law students Bianca Guerrier and Johnny Ramirez have also volunteered with ANYTOWN as counselors.
“We teach students to be inclusive rather than tolerant,” Alamo said.
By creating social situations where students experience what it’s like to be discriminated against, and encouraging dialogue about the experience, students learn why it’s important to advocate against discrimination, Alamo explained.
“We take young people through an afternoon of experiencing limited sight, hearing and dexterity to show them what it’s like to be disabled,” Alamo said. “This provides students with an experience that hopefully leads to empathy.”
Before coming to Stetson Law, and shortly after graduating with an undergraduate degree in international relations and economics, Alamo dedicated a year to serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Community Tampa Bay. She spearheaded a new program called Facilitating the Leadership of Youth, or FLY, co-sponsored by the Rays Baseball Foundation. Young people engaged in FLY meet weekly to plan youth summits in the community that tackle social diseases like sexism, racism and stereotyping.
Getting young people talking to each other has had some positive results, Alamo said.
“We now have young people growing up in the social media age where conversations take place online,” Alamo said. “Getting them talking face-to-face with each other takes them outside of their comfort zones. They learn how to be facilitators for these difficult conversations in the community.”
Currently a full-time law student at Stetson, Alamo continues to attend weekly FLY meetings and to volunteer as a counselor with the ANYTOWN program, in addition to working as a guardian ad litem and mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters. On Stetson’s Gulfport campus, Alamo recently helped facilitate a workshop during a diversity retreat for law students to explore how the idea of privilege influences social identity.
“All systemic social justice issues can be changed with quality education,” said Alamo, who plans to work in education law and reform after graduating from Stetson.
At the young age of 25 and in just the past five years, Alamo has impacted more than 1,000 young people.
“Quality education and cross-cultural interactions can reverse prejudices that we are all conditioned to have,” Alamo said. “Youth can change things.”
To learn more about the New Generation Award, the National Child Labor Committee and the LEWIS HINE AWARDS, visit www.nationalchildlabor.org. To learn more about Community Tampa Bay, visit http://www.communitytampabay.org/blog/.
Post date: Feb. 14, 2013