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The History of Student Advocacy in Montgomery County

Image credits: University of Maryland Library Guides and MCRSGA

If you are a student in Montgomery County, you have likely noticed that it is one of the most active areas for student advocacy in the country. Housing prolifically liberal cities such as Takoma Park and Silver Spring, it is also conveniently adjacent to Washington D.C. and Annapolis, where local and national lawmakers work and live. This proximity has given students the opportunity to lobby for legislation on Capitol Hill and in Congress. Montgomery County is also home to youth organizations such as Moco EmpowHER, Moco 4 Change, and, of course, MCR-SGA, with organizations such as MASC (Maryland Association of Student Councils) existing on the state level. Many of these organizations were founded by students for students, and this culture of striving for change began decades earlier, all across the state of Maryland.

Back in the 1960s, Maryland was famously home to several “Freedom Rides,” protests opposing segregation on buses at the time. Students and young people in Montgomery County and beyond participated in these protests along Route 301, which runs along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. These were just several of the protests that took place against racial discrimination, as Baltimore, MD was particularly infamous for its educational segregation.

Young people continued their advocacy for peace in the 1970s during the Vietnam War. During the spring of 1970, there were huge anti-war protests by University of Maryland students on Route 1 and McKeldin Mall. The scope of the protests was so vast that the National Guard was even deployed. Since the 1970s, students have been active in protesting wars and acts of violence, including the Gulf War in the 1990s. Student advocacy centering around environmentalism also began in the 1970s, alongside the passing of landmark federal environmental legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. At UMD, students successfully proposed and pushed for the university's first campus recycling center, one of the earliest in the area.

In the later 70s and 80s, students focused on women’s rights advocacy, especially in support of Title IX, raising awareness of sexual violence, and pro-choice policies. UMD students also attended the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October 1979, which was one of the largest nationally organized marches for LGBTQ+ rights. After 1979, LGBTQ+ activism continued on campus, focusing on marriage equality.

The legacy of Maryland’s rich history in student advocacy is being carried on every day. Even in strictly non-partisan organizations such as MCR-SGA and MASC, students have the opportunity to advocate for educational policies that they believe will benefit students across the county and state. Students who are interested in getting involved in more specific organizations have a plethora of options; from Eco Moco for environmentalism to Moco EmpowHER for gender equality to F.A.I.R. for immigration reform, student activists have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact long before they’ve even received their high school cap and gown.

Works Cited:

mdhslibrarydept. “History Engaging Youth: Studying Civil Rights History in Maryland.” Maryland Center for History and Culture, 2 June 2016, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Hughes-Watkins, Lae’l. “Research Guides: Student Activism at University of Maryland: Home.”, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Written by Lily Scheckner

Published by the Communications Department


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