National Right to Life Academy: Equipping Pro-life Students for Life

By Karen Cross, National Right to Life political director

Editor’s note. This president’s column appears in the August digital edition of National Right to Life News. Please read the entire 42-page issue and pass it along using your social media contacts.

The 11th annual National Right to Life Academy officially ended on Friday, August 4. Pro-life students who attended the accredited course came away with a fuller understanding of the movement as a whole: from bioethics to post-abortion syndrome, political action to legislation and lobbying, communication and effective use of social media, the history of the pro-life movement, and much more.

“The Academy has given me the tools to be an effective pro-life advocate,” said Emily Barnhill, from South Carolina. “I am so thankful they took time to invest in me and my classmates.”

The Academy, a five-week summer program, is an accredited course in which students may receive three college credits through the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The Academy began on June 29, at the 47th Annual National Right to Life Convention in Milwaukee where students were immediately immersed into all aspects of the movement. They continued their education at the National Right to Life headquarters in Washington, D.C. through August 4.

The Academy is an excellent resource for students wishing to be active in the pro-life movement, whether seeking a job or wanting to volunteer. Many past Academy students are currently serving in various capacities across the country. Some have been employed by National Right to Life, employed by NRL state affiliates, and others serve on right to life boards or as chapter leaders. In fact, many NRL state affiliates look to Academy students when job openings occur, as they are bright and committed to the pro-life cause.

Students hear from a variety of experts in the pro-life movement, including bioethicist Wesley Smith and members and National Right to Life staff.

“The Legislative team at NRLC has provided instructional materials to the academy students in order to understand the tenets of the legislative process and how important grassroots lobbying is to the right to life issue,” said Ingrid Duran, the director of the State Legislative Department of National Right to Life.

“By the end of their training, academy students will be able to effectively lobby their leaders on life issues such as the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and a wide variety of pro-life laws that are legislative priorities for NRLC,” she added. “The students will also be prepared to respond to pro-abortion arguments to these vital pieces of legislation.”

“Attending the National Right to Life Academy has been nothing short of a blessing,” Barnhill added. “Every single person in the National office is a hero in the pro-life movement and I consider it a great privilege to have met every single one of them.”

“The experience was memorable and immersive, challenging and intense, and ultimately rewarding,” said Conor Clement, from Nevada.

“I am very impressed with the quality of our students, with their intelligence, their drive, and their dedication,” said Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, National Right to Life Academy director. “I had taught some Academy classes in years past, but this was the first year that I really got a chance to see just how deep and comprehensive our training program is.”

O’Bannon explained, “We’ve spent a great deal of time not only discussing pro-life political action and the latest legislation, but have also devoted considerable attention to our history and to the biological and ethical background that undergirds our movement. These young people are going to come out of this course not just prepared to talk about our issues but to make a difference!”

Destiny Smith, of Rhode Island, told NRL News,“The National Right to Life Academy has equipped me with the tools to become an advocate for life, dedicated to seek the pursuit of justice.” She noted, “The Academy professors established the importance of active engagement, relentless action, and passionate people. I am thankful for National Right to Life, and their investment into my future. It is an honor to be a part of their influential legacy.”