Brendan Brady has always been passionate about social justice issues.
So last winter, when he heard his peers at Rolling Meadows High School wanted to help other students become more active and make a difference in their community, he co-founded a social justice club.
In just under a year, that club, Mustangs Organizing for Social Transformation, or M.O.S.T., has spurred action.
Members of M.O.S.T. have organized a variety of social justice-focused activities that have drawn hundreds of students, from hosting a candidate’s forum prior to the November election to collecting hygiene products for women in poverty and holding a 17-minute walkout in March to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting.
“These are really important issues, and it shows there is interest,” says Brendan, a senior at Rolling Meadows. “I think we are making some impact here and getting people to think about these issues.”
M.O.S.T was formed shortly after Rolling Meadows held an event last December that gave students the opportunity to write holiday cards to incarcerated youth in Illinois. Afterward, a group of students said they were interested in holding more social justice-minded activities, said Rolling Meadows English teacher Gabe Popovich, the group’s sponsor.
The group officially formed in February 2018, and from there, students coordinated a fundraiser to purchase feminine hygiene products for homeless women. The students ultimately raised more than $700 and purchased products that filled 200 brown paper bags that were later delivered to local women’s shelters.
The following month, students organized a peaceful, 17-minute school walkout to pay tribute to the Parkland victims and discuss gun control issues. More than 500 students participated. The group later coordinated an event where students called politicians about issues that are important them and spoke to then-State Senator Tom Rooney about the nation’s gun debate and gun reform legislation in the Illinois Senate chamber.
This school year, students organized a political forum just before the November election featuring both candidates running for the Illinois State Senate 27th district. The candidates explained their positions on various issues to a crowd of 160 people, most of whom were students.
Recently, M.O.S.T. organized an after-school event where students wrote and designed more than 100 holiday cards for individuals in U.S. detention centers. At the event, students heard from an organizer with the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign and learned how their cards would impact refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants being held at U.S. border.
Rolling Meadows senior Lucia Skuldt, who is one founding members of M.O.S.T., says the group’s goal is to make change at different levels, no matter how big or small. She pointed to an upcoming project M.O.S.T. plans to tackle: recycling.
“We’ve seen injustice and problems in society, and we’re doing our best to fix it,” says Lucia. “It just takes a couple of steps and a couple of people to get things rolling.”
Jasmin Bolaños immediately knew she would attend the holiday card writing event as soon as she heard about it. The Rolling Meadows senior is the daughter of immigrants, and wrote the cards with the hopes of brightening the day or week for those who have been detained.
“A lot of these people feel like they’ve been forgotten,” she says. “A small act of kindness can go a long way.”