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RISE at Columbia Law School Outreach Visit

On July 10th, 2018, New York Counts 2020 made a trip to Columbia Law School to speak at RISE (Roadmap to Inspiration Sisterhood and Empowerment), a summer law institute for rising ninth grade girls of color established by Legal Outreach. RISE seeks to inspire students to strive for academic excellence and to pursue a career in law. A captive audience of 26 motivated young women of color, primarily low-income African and Latina teenagers, many who live in the hard-to-count areas of the Bronx and Harlem had assembled for the talk.

Elizabeth R. OuYang, coordinator of New York Counts 2020, engaged the young scholars in a spirited discussion on the constitutional mandate of the census, the importance of the census in the basic functioning of our democracy, and the unique challenges of the 2020 Census.

The students, as aspiring attorneys, were especially interested in learning about the plaintiff’s claims and the Department of Commerce’s defenses in the New York AG’s lawsuit challenging the citizenship question. OuYang emphasized the inextricable relationship between litigation and advocacy by sharing New York Counts 2020’s mobilization responses, which have included coalition-building, petitions, a statewide conference, and census advocacy visits on Capitol Hill.

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Addy Zou, New York Counts 2020 summer intern, led an interactive activity in which students practiced their own advocacy pitches. Zou profiled New York members of Congress and asked students to form persuasive arguments for increasing Census Bureau FY 2019 funding based on a representative’s unique interests and district.

RISE students came away with a call-to-action to use their voice and submit a public comment on the citizenship question. As OuYang said, “You now know more about the census than most people. Tell your parents, your friends, your classmates about the importance of the census.”

The RISE Team, Paris Wilkerson, Afnan Akram, and Raleigh Stamper, extended their thanks to New York Counts 2020:

“The students learned an incredible amount regarding the importance of civil duty, especially with something as important as participating in a census. You broke down a concept that far too often seems complicated and remote, and turned it into an achievable way to ensure representation and participate in our government system. I also thought that the hypothetical activity was a great way to help the students apply what they had learned.”

Elizabeth Plum