This month, college students from all over the state of Texas drove, carpooled, and flew to Houston for the Dr. Joseph Graham Fellowship for College Pro-Life Leaders training program. The Fellowship, sponsored by Texas Right to Life, is a program for pro-life college students who earn up to $8,000 over the course of their college careers as life advocates on their respective college campuses.
In order to develop effective witnesses for life, Texas Right to Life brings all of the fellows together every summer for an intensive period of training and preparation so that when the fall semester comes, they will be ready to march onto their campuses with up-to-date and professional knowledge of every imaginable life-related topic. The training program also prepares students to accomplish the more fine-tuned details of running a pro-life group, like recruiting members, debating with students who disagree with their pro-life stance, and working in conjunction with faculty and staff at their school to ensure that a legitimate pro-life group is established and cultivated over the years.
Live Action obtained an insider’s view of the Fellowship training program in an interview with Baileigh Poston, a sophomore psychology/political science double-major at the University of North Texas who is a second-year fellow. Baileigh is a trained sidewalk counselor and a volunteer at pregnancy resource centers in Dallas, and her area of interest in the pro-life movement is with adoption and special-needs children. “I am adopted, and that is a very special thing to me and I am able to see how loving that option is firsthand,” she said. Baileigh’s affection for her adoptive father is palpable. She continued: “I also have a deep love for people with special needs and a love to volunteer at schools and organizations that work with different citizens that have varying degrees of special needs.” Baileigh is no stranger to work with special needs, as she has been volunteering with special needs communities and groups for years, and she even volunteered with a group to help ensure that special-needs peers in her school were able to achieve a normal high school experience.
Curious how a college training program could add to the well-established pro-life foundation Baileigh had already established before college, Live Action asked how the training had benefited her. “The fellowship training helps a lot with being able to promote the pro-life message on college campuses across TX. We hear a lot of speakers who are experts in their area that give a lot of information on all pro-life topics that we are able to use to communicate to other students on our particular campus,” she said.
Baileigh pointed out that the training program also helps to prepare students to encounter opposition on campus: “We also do practice tabling, where we present topics and have some students be the pro-life people running the table and other students pretend to be pro-choice and present arguments that we may face when talking with an actual pro-choice individual.” She says that getting input from all of the other students about what has worked for them in the past is a benefit of the training program.
What is a typical day at training like? “A typical day at training starts at about 7:30 am. You wake up and get ready in business casual attire and eat breakfast in the room. Training normally starts between 8:30 and 9. We meet in the conference room and spend 10 to 15 minutes writing out our goals [this is a trade secret over at Texas Right to Life]. After that, on an average day, there would probably be 2 speakers before lunch, each speaker covering a variety of topics from abortion, Planned Parenthood’s business model, euthanasia, adoption stories, etc. Each speaker’s presentation lasts between 1-1.5 hours. Then we would have lunch around 12 or 1. After lunch we may practice tabling for a few hours or talk through scenarios and how we could respond to them when on our campuses. After that practice, there may be another speaker and then dinner. After dinner there would be an educational movie, such as October Baby, Schindler’s List, or Gattaca, and then a debriefing on the day. The day normally last until 9 or 10, and then we are free for the night.”
We asked Baileigh what her favorite part of the training program this year was. True to her love for helping special-needs individuals, she responded: “My favorite part of training this summer was volunteering at the Brookwood community. We got to go spend time with special-needs citizens and swim with them and help them with their water aerobics. We also got a tour of the facility.”
We asked Baileigh what advice she would give to a student who is interested in getting involved in pro-life movement on campus. “There is a place for everyone in the pro-life movement,” she said. “I would recommend getting involved in your on-campus pro-life group and seeing what they are doing. If there is nothing on campus, I would recommend going and volunteering at a local pregnancy center, praying outside an abortion clinic, volunteer with older adults or special-needs citizens, or attend a march or event that a pro-life agency is putting on. There are endless ways to get involved and learn more about the movement. It is important to stay educated about what is going on so you know the reality of what actually is happening, positive and negative, within the pro-life community.”
Stay tuned next week for more highlights from the summer training program, and information about how you can establish something similar in your community!
This article originally appeared at LiveAction.org and is reprinted with permission.