Every spring, Virginia Tech student groups team up with Habitat for Humanity to raise money for houses built in the New River Valley area. During this fundraiser, "Shack-a-Thon," each student group builds a shack and lives in it for a week straight. There must be two group members in the shack at all times, and the group with the most donations collected at the end of the week wins free building materials for the next year.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity for VT YAL to reach out on campus, so we decided to combine "Shack-a-Thon" with Incarceration Nation this year!
With the help of our engineer members, we built a jail, complete with Incarceration Nation statistics, a Gadsden flag banner, and metallic cell bars.
We camped out in our jail and invited students to take pictures behind the bars. Viewers were shocked at the statistics written on one of our walls (especially that America has 25% of the world’s jailed population, but only 5% of the world’s overall population!) and many signed up to attend YAL meetings next semester.
As the only political club involved in "Shack-a-Thon", we were excited to start thought-provoking political conversations with the clubs neighboring us and build lasting connections across the university. Nearly every student we talked to felt strongly that incarceration for non-violent offenses (particularly marijuana possession) was a misuse of the government’s powers and should be stopped.
YAL placed fifth out of thirteen clubs and raised over $800 for Habitat for Humanity. We were honored to help out a great cause while spreading our message!
We were flattered to be featured in several publications, such as Polzer Center on Capital and Social Equity (www.polzercapital.com) and The Roanoke Times. Mim Blower, our graduating president, was published in VT’s student-run newspaper The Collegiate Times, where she discussed prison reform (article found here).
Another of our soon-to-be graduates is compiling a video of our week in the shack–to be posted soon!
Great job to the other chapters who participated in this brilliant event–– those of us at YAL are making a difference, and we are very glad to be working with y’all!