Aiming for Equality With New Amnesty International Club

by McKenna Burchett, staff writer

May 2021 – Bio-Med Science Academy is adding a new club to its repertoire: Amnesty International. This club is dedicated to serving the organization of the same name, upholding human rights. The club will be run by William Ullinger, current freshman history teacher, Camryn Myrla, and Keira Vasbinder, both sophomores.

“Our plans right now are to go through the steps of becoming an official club for the school so that we are able to hold meetings and invite others to join. Our goal is to be having weekly meetings starting next school year,” Vasbinder commented.

Myrla said the club activities would include researching a certain topic, spreading awareness by creating posters and using social media, writing letters to officials, signing petitions, and any other way they can take action against injustice. By creating this club, they are joining 10 million others in the organization to fight against human rights violations.

Supporters of Amnesty International at Cologne Pride Parade 2014.

Amnesty International, also known as Amnesty for short, was created in 1961 after British lawyer Peter Benenson wrote an outraged article about the arrest of two Portuguese students for toasting to freedom. This article sparked many more like it and eventually led to the founding of this organization.

“Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done,” Benenson declared.

Amnesty launched its first campaign against torture in 1972. Twelve years later, the UN voted to combat torture worldwide with the Convention against Torture. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for ‘securing the ground for freedom, for justice, and thereby also for peace in the world.’ Amnesty is responsible for the founding of the International Criminal Court in 2002. It operates a large London base and regional offices in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Amnesty is currently working on developing a mobile application that would act as a “panic button” for activists in danger.

Myrla was inspired to create this club after the “many cases of police brutality happening in 2020” and the civil unrest that followed.

“I found many ideas for clubs that try to both raise awareness and take action,” she said, “but ultimately decided on Amnesty International because of how effective their work has been in the past.” However, in order to make this club a reality, she needed help.

First, she needed another student to help her run it. She approached Vasbinder with the idea.

“Camryn came up with the idea of the club and gave me a brief explanation of what we would be doing. I was interested and wanted to help with setting up and running the club,” Vasbinder recalled.

Next, she needed a teacher to be the club advisor. “I chose Mr. Ullinger to be this club’s adviser because of how vocal he has been toward human rights. I knew that he would support the idea. I also recently found out that his sister was the director of an Amnesty International club when they were in high school.”

Ullinger was also a member of Amnesty International in high school. “We had a ton of concerts at [Kent] Roosevelt back in the day where you pay to get in, and that money would go towards Amnesty International,” he recalled. “It’s a bit different now since we didn’t have social media when I was in high school, but it’s pretty much the same foundation.”

When asked about how it would be run, he said, “I’m really letting Camryn and Keira design it. I’m more the one sitting there going ‘okay here’s some problems that could come up’ like I do with everything else at this school. I want it to be very student-centered, student-oriented, and student-built.”

The three have high hopes for next year. Ullinger finished with “I think anyone can say they support Amnesty International, because no one wants to see human rights violated. I think it’s pretty agreeable across the board that that’s bad. If we can shine a light on that, be proactive, and take a stand against it, that’s a good thing.”

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