NEW YORK – In celebration of International Day of the Girl, First Lady Jill Biden will honor Julia Garnett, a 17-year-old Student Advocates for Speech (SAS) leader from Hendersonville, Tennessee. Garnett is one of 15 young women selected by the White House Gender Policy Council who lead change and shape a brighter future in their communities across the United States.
A feed of the ceremony entitled “Girls Leading Change” is available for viewing on the White House YouTube Channel.
Julia Garnett is an active member of the National Coalition Against Censorship’s (NCAC) Student Advocates for Speech. The White House recognizes Garnett for fighting against book bans and efforts to promote educational freedom in public, school, and county public libraries. In Garnett’s school district, she advocated successfully for student representation on book review committees and served on her own high school’s committee. At the national level, Garnett has provided testimony on book bans before Congress. She is an organizer and leader on multiple issues, planned a Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, led a student walkout to protest gun violence, and served as the President of Garnett’s school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Garnett is committed to ensuring that youth grow up free from censorship, with access to books that fully represent the diversity of their communities and the world.
“I am extremely proud of Julia’s dedicated activism to defend the freedom to read,” said Christine Emeran, director, Youth Free Expression Program, NCAC. “She serves as a role model for other student activists in NCAC’s Student Advocates for Speech Program and beyond on today’s International Day of the Girl.”
Now in its second year, the SAS, administered by NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program (YFEP) of the NCAC, assists students from 15 states with creating free speech clubs within their schools to advocate for the importance of free speech. Participants also receive tools to organize events on the right to read, student free press, and publishing/speaking opportunities to amplify their voices as young people active in democratic civic life.
Currently, 21 SAS student leaders are participating in the program. Several youth leaders have established school clubs that cater to over 10,000 students, particularly in states like Texas, Florida, and Missouri, where educational censorship is prevalent. The program provides participants with virtual advocacy training, opportunities to engage in national dialogues with authors, journalists, and banned book reporters, and assistance in amplifying their voices through media interviews and publication of op-eds.
Additional information on YFEP’s Student Advocates for Speech program and how you can support their efforts is available at ncac.org/sas.
About National Coalition Against Censorship
Since its inception in 1974, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has been a first responder in protecting freedom of expression, a fundamental human right and a keystone of democracy. Representing 59 national education, publishing, and arts organizations, NCAC works with people fighting censorship at the local level. It encourages and facilitates dialogue between diverse voices and perspectives, including those historically silenced.