Two hundred college students from 19 Texas universities converged on the University of Texas in Austin last weekend to attend the 4th annual Boots on the Ground College Student Conference. The conference occurred January 28-29 and took time to commemorate the 44th anniversaries of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion-on-demand in America, by allowing the students a break to participate in the March for Life in Austin. The theme of this year’s conference centered on embracing diversity among people of all backgrounds, political parties, faiths, or no faith, and uniting Pro-Life to make abortion unthinkable. As a result, conference attendees heard from a diverse array of speakers throughout the weekend, including a Pro-Life Democrat, a woman of Chinese descent who survived the Chinese one-child policy, and a biblical counselor explaining Pro-Life biblical principles.
Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani of RagingElephantsRadio.com opened the conference on Saturday morning with his view of the impact abortion in the black community, and, after the students participated in the March that afternoon, Lisa Smiley joined the students to share her family’s story of bucking China’s one-child policy by having five children and immigrating to New Zealand and then on to the United States. Following the Battle of the Universities, in which each school competed for points, with the winning school receiving the prize of being first in line for dinner (the Pro-Life Aggies from Texas A&M won the honor), Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago taught secular Pro-Life philosophies for the students to present to their opposition on campus. James Steward, a post-abortive father and biblical counselor, closed day one of the conference with a speech outlining biblical Pro-Life principles. When the conference wrapped for the day, attendees used free time to explore Austin and get some much needed sleep.
Cecilia Brown, President of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, was the first keynote of day two of the conference. Although some conference-goers were apprehensive about a speaker who stands in a controversial position on another divisive social issue, Brown urged the students to think deeply about what they are willing to sacrifice and with whom they are willing to work to end the atrocity of abortion. Breakout sessions filled the rest of the morning. The first block of sessions included learning how to collaborate with and appeal to diverse campus groups from Students for Life of America’s Southwest Regional Coordinator, Jillian Ferguson, and former Obama White House staffer and Pro-Life Democrat Michael Wear. The second set of breakout sessions included Theresa Camara of the Houston Coalition for Life who gave an overview and brief training on sidewalk counseling, and ChroniclesOfRadness.com blogger Kristen Hatten who instructed students on how best to defeat cultural Marxism. The conference’s final keynote speaker, Joyce McCauley-Benner of Feminists for Life of America, spoke about her experience of conceiving a child after rape, her choice for Life, and the ways we need to support women following sexual assault. To round out the conference, the Texas Right to Life Education Department awarded trophies to campus Pro-Life clubs and club members for various awards (see below for full list of winners).
Students returned to their campuses with a renewed respect for their student body and a new outlook on how best to reach students, in all their diversity, to continue promoting Life on campus.
Pro-Life Student Group Awards
GOLD DIGGER$ – Award for Unique Fundraiser
WINNER: Dustdevils for Life at Texas A&M International University
Dustdevils for Life hosted a Viva La Vida fundraiser on Mexican Independence Day and sold Mexican food as a fundraiser for their club.
Pro-Life Party Crashers – Award for Unique Social Event
WINNER: Lumberjacks for Life at Stephen F. Austin State University
Lumberjacks for Life hosted a murder mystery dinner party for their club members during which those in attendance solved a fictional crime.
Lend Me Thine Ears – Award for Most Pro-Life Speakers on Campus
WINNER: Pro-Life Aggies at Texas A&M University
The Pro-Life Aggies hosted ten speakers in the fall 2016 semester alone!
The Tin Man Award – Most Philanthropic Group
WINNER: Mustangs for Life at Southern Methodist University
This is the second consecutive year Mustangs for Life has won this award by volunteering their time at pregnancy resource centers, nursing homes, and soup kitchens.
Defender of Life Award – Most Activism Efforts
WINNER: Texas Students for Life at the University of Texas
Texas Students for Life consistently hosts information tables on campus to educate on Pro-Life issues and to expose Planned Parenthood’s unethical practices.
Harvard Dropout Whiz – Award for Most Social Media Savvy Group
WINNER: Raiders Defending Life at Texas Tech University
Raiders Defending Life promotes their group on four social media platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), plus they have a bi-yearly newsletter.
Blastocyst Award – Fastest Growing Pro-Life College Club
WINNER: TCU Students for Life at Texas Christian University
After being founded in April 2016, TCU Students for Life already has 20 regular members attending meetings and events.
Socrates Award – Most Tabling Efforts on Campus
WINNER: Pro-Life LeTourneau at LeTourneau University
Pro-Life LeTourneau regularly hosts information tables on their campus on various Pro-Life topics.
Sit Down, Wendy Davis – Award for Most Politically Active College Group
WINNER: Crusaders for Life at the University of Dallas
Crusaders for Life’s Political Chair sends bi-weekly emails to the group’s members updating them on what’s happening with Pro-Life issues in the political world, plus the group assisted in a campaign to re-elect a Pro-Life legislator in their area.
New Kids on the Block – Award for Newest Official College Pro-Life Club
WINNER: Bearkats for Life at Sam Houston State University
Bearkats for Life was established as a club in fall 2016.
Teacher’s Pet – Award for Highest Attendance at Boots on the Ground
WINNER: Crusaders for Life at University of Dallas
The Crusaders for Life brought 40 people to the conference!
Outstanding Freshman Award
WINNER: Alice Huseland of Pro-Life LeTourneau at LeTourneau University
As a freshman, Alice has been so committed to the welfare of the group that she stepped into the role of secretary when the group was in need.
Unsung Hero Award
WINNER: Andrew Collart of Crusaders for Life at the University of Dallas
As the group’s Political Chair, Andrew keeps the club informed about Pro-Life political updates. He is one of the most reliable members of the group, often reminding the group’s president of upcoming events.
Most Likely to Succeed (An award for a young member with promise)
WINNER: Madison Campbell of Raiders Defending Life at Texas Tech University
Madison supports the club on a consistent basis, often opening up her apartment for club socials, and is considered a bright, future leader of the group.
Pro-Life Professional (A graduating senior who has been dedicated to the group throughout college)
WINNER: Tiffany Hatrel of Pro-Life Aggies at Texas A&M University
Not only has Tiffany been a dedicated member of Pro-Life Aggies for four years, she also fundraised so that the club could afford the $900 fee for the full curriculum of the Abortion Dialogue Academy.