Spreading Her Passion
December 1, 2011
As Congresswoman Giffords recovers, Scripps honors her
The Arizona shooting on Jan. 8, 2010 appeared to come out of nowhere. The tragedy resulted in the death of six people and the injury of thirteen, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords SC ‘93. Because she is a Scripps alumna, Giffords’ shooting, survival and recovery have been of particular interest to Scripps College and the larger Claremont Colleges community.
Immediately following the shooting, Scripps students, alumnae, faculty, and administrators pulled together to put on the Candlelight Circle of Hope, a vigil for Giffords and all of the victims in Tucson, and create a website called “Letters to Gabby,” where anyone could post a message for the Congresswoman.
Shortly thereafter, administrators discussed creating a grant in Giffords’ honor. The resulting Gabrielle Giffords ’93 Internship in Public Service provides $4,000 for one student each year who has a “demonstrated interest in public service, activism, and issues of social justice.”
Kristie Hernandez SC ’13, the first winner of this grant, used the money to work with the Labor/Community Strategy Center on the Community Rights Campaign (CRC). Hernandez describes the organization’s main goal as “stopping the school to prison pipeline.” A Los Angeles native majoring in politics, Hernandez got started with the CRC in January though a class which required students to do com- munity outreach for a local organization.
Hernandez’s work for the CRC focused on fighting truancy tickets enforced by Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 45.04, which “works to funnel thousands of kids into this criminal injustice system.” As recently as February, Hernandez explains, “kids could get legally ticketed for being a minute late to class, walking on their way to class, within school grounds they could get a $240 ticket for being ‘truant.’”
A month into their work together, the CRC insisted on having Hernandez stay on board. Since she needed funding, Hernandez started looking for grants to finance her work over the summer. The brand new Gabrielle Giffords ’93 Internship in Public Service caught her eye and she decided to apply. Hernandez said the grant is perfect for her because “its all about education and community rights.”
While Hernandez is unsure where she will end up in the future – citing possible careers in politics or academia – she is confident that her destination will be influenced by her internship at CRC.
“The research that I’m doing for this whole year, which will turn into my senior thesis next year, is about schools and prisons. It’s about how truancy tickets are being used as a method to repress dissent among those communities,” Hernandez explains.
Besides the grant, which is now endowed to ensure internships in public service for years to come, Scripps also recently hosted an event to celebrate the release of Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.
The memoir, released on Nov. 15, is co- authored by Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly. While the bulk of the book was written by Kelly and includes details from the ongoing recovery process, the final chapter is penned by Giffords herself and indicates her intention to return to office one day.
In a letter read at the book release party, Kelly said, “Gabby attributes her keen sense of curiosity and her ability to lead to those formative years at Scripps College.”
Connie Wu, a Scripps staff member who won the book drawing at the re- lease celebration, says she “was excited, but not surprised, to learn that [Giffords] attended Scripps College because she is such a strong, hard-working, and passionate individual.”
A Scripps woman through and through, Giffords’ commencement speech for the Class of 2009 embodies her spirit. She told the graduates, “Standing up for one’s own integrity makes you no friends. It is costly. Yet definance of the mob, in the service of that which is right, is one of the highest expressions of courage I know.”