A 20-year-old Roosevelt University student was selected for a new award that recognizes promising activism by young people in Illinois.
Jazmine-Marie Cruz, an education major who wants to be a teacher, is the first recipient of the Illinois Human Rights Commission's Millennial Activism Award.
One of four student finalists, ages 17 to 21, Cruz received the inaugural award based on leadership, passion and determination she showed in organizing and leading a women's march attended by a few hundred activists in Chicago in January.
"Even though Jazmine had never led a rally before, she was not afraid to try," said Illinois Human Rights Commission Director Philip Dalmage.
"She made a march happen because she truly believed in women's rights and the Me Too Movement," he said. "That is the kind of youth activism we hope this new award will encourage and inspire."
Cruz is a native of Kenosha, Wis., and the first in her family to go to college. "I didn't know much about activism growing up," said the 2017 graduate of Kenosha's Tremper High School, who started at Roosevelt in the fall of 2018.
I've learned a lot about organizing these past few months," she added. "It's given me purpose, opportunity and has definitely changed my life."
The Roosevelt student currently is preparing to launch a new group called Youth in Power, which will reach out to middle and high school students in Chicago about the importance of youth activism.
"Our aim is to go into area schools, talk to kids about making a difference and teach them how to be activists in their own communities," said Cruz, who is working on the new initiative with fellow Roosevelt education major Kylee Traylor.