Student Honored for Devotion to Social Justice Activism
Andrew Plotch, 16, has been awarded the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives/Puffin Student Activism Award for his demonstrated leadership and commitment to social justice.
While Fair Lawn teenager and budding political organizer Andrew Plotch is still relatively new to social justice activism, he says he’s committed to the cause for the long haul.
The 16-year-old Bergen County Academies sophomore, a devoted environmentalist and leader in the school’s Junior Statesmen of America program and Amnesty International chapter, will receive the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives/Puffin Student Activism Award at an awards ceremony on Sunday at the Museum of the City of New York.
“Andrew is a young man whose sense of social justice comes from his deep understanding of what is right and wrong,” Plotch’s teacher Sergei Alschen said. “His growing commitment to political activism reflects his desire to contribute to a world where all people are treated fairly and humanely.”
Presented by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives – a nonprofit devoted to preserving the history of the North American involvement in the Spanish Civil War -- the award Plotch will receive honors a high school student who has demonstrated leadership and commitment to social justice.
“Over the past few months, since learning about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, I have taken [my political activism] up another notch,” Plotch wrote in his winning essay. “Since fall, I have petitioned, occupied, organized and fought apathy. Yet this is only the beginning.”
Plotch’s essay channels the inspiration he said surged through his veins on a recent visit to the Archives, after viewing a single iconic photograph taken during the Spanish Civil War.
“People say a photo is worth a thousand words, but I disagree,” wrote Plotch, describing Agusti Centelles’ “Man Behind the Barricade.” “Sometimes it is worth much more.”
The 1936 photograph shows three men gazing down the barrels of their rifles from behind a barricade of dead horses in the hours before the military uprising that led to the civil war.
“This photograph defines a lifestyle, and not just any lifestyle, but one I knew I had to have,” Plotch wrote. “It defines an activists’ life; one spent fighting injustice no matter the odds, no matter the consequences.”
Despite an American law that made it illegal for Americans to fight, 2,800 American volunteers – known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade -- traveled to Spain during the Spanish Civil War to combat fascism.
Many of the men from the Brigade made political activism at home their life’s work after the war, participating in civil rights demonstrations and Vietnam War protests.
“They have inspired me to be a more politically active part of the world around me,” Plotch wrote.