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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “A-TOWN targets issues of racism, inequality”

    A-TOWN, a UA seminar focused on social justice and leadership is looking back on last year’s experience while preparing for its second annual conference.

    Historically available to students in junior high school and high school, Anytown Arizona, Inc. has collaborated with UA to form the “”flagship”” of Anytown’s college planning, according to Dustin Cox.

    As a former ASUA senator who graduated last year, Cox worked to build A-TOWN at UA and says since last year, they have made “”tremendous leaps and bounds.”” Currently he is working to spread A-TOWN to other universities such as Arizona State University, University of Nevada, Reno and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    But it all started at the UA.

    A-TOWN administrative director and sociology junior Genevieve Flagello said in the past year, the A-TOWN administration has been working to keep the conference alive and build it up, especially by trying to get different UA cultural organizations involved.

    While recognizing the progress that has been made, both Cox and Flagello talked about getting more people to participate. Last year 70 delegates were accepted, according to Flagello. This year, A-TOWN will be accepting 100.

    Cox said he would like to see A-TOWN expand, “”quite frankly, there’s a whole lot that needs to be done. We can make a larger impact.”” Currently financial issues are the biggest thing holding the program back, he said.

    Meanwhile, classics senior Marcus Barnes-Cannon, a delegate at last year’s conference, said, “”The people who are going are inclined toward these sorts of things in the first place.”” He said that the people you want to reach will be the people who are “”wavering”” a bit.

    People like Violeta Ramos, a senior majoring in Spanish, who said that she comes from a Latin family who is very religious and very close-minded. She said her parents don’t mean to be, but they were raised that way and that’s just how they are.

    So to Ramos, racism and homophobia were “”very normal,”” she said. After participating in Anytown Arizona, Inc. as a high school student Ramos said, “”It changed my life so much. It made me aware of what’s going on around me, making me more comfortable with myself.””

    Flagello said the administration has reworked the curriculum for this year’s conference to tailor it more to college students. She would also like A-TOWN to have more of an effect in “”sustaining the ideal of social justice on a day-to-day basis.””

    In referencing changes from last year to this year, Cox said last year was focused on “”inspiring and educating people about social justice issues, the problems that were in our community at the UA; race, sex, sexual orientation, all the way down the line.”” This year, Cox said A-TOWN is more directed toward “”empowering students to take action, giving them the tools that they need to actually make positive and effective changes in the community.””

    Elyse Adams, a education junior, called last year’s conference an “”eye-opening experience.”” She said though she initially agreed with A-TOWN’s ideals, the conference led her to become more conscious of them, that she would stand up for things more.

    Ramos, who was a counselor last year, said she was “”able to see that there are students at the university level trying to make a change.””

    The next A-TOWN conference will be Jan. 7-12, 2009. For more details and an application, see http://atown.asua.arizona.edu. Applications are due Nov. 10.

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