Speaking out for change

Portland State student Kim Tolomei is no stranger to activism. Having grown up in the 1960s, she has witnessed the changes to student protests over the years.

Portland State student Kim Tolomei is no stranger to activism. Having grown up in the 1960s, she has witnessed the changes to student protests over the years.

She said she believes that today’s students aren’t getting involved enough.

As coordinator of the Students United for Nonviolence (SUN), a Portland State student group based in activism, Tolomei sees the opportunity to take action being missed by many people on campus.

“I grew up during the Vietnam War,” Tolomei said. “I saw people protest back then–college students today aren’t affected like they were.”

Tolomei has been the coordinator of the group since last spring, taking it upon herself to organize every event for the group’s fall schedule.

“It is an opportunity to have a voice in creating social change instead of sitting back in apathy,” Tolomei said.

The group held over 30 events last year, an agenda that Tolomei said she saw as vital to the progress and exposure of the group.

Events sponsored by the group in the past year have included helping an Iraqi woman and her daughter gain asylum in the U.S., a two-day conference concerning human rights issues in the military, and organizing Code Pink, a national anti-war activism campaign for women, Tolomei said.

The group is also co-sponsoring the NW Mobilization, a large regional anti-war protest in Seattle, on Saturday, Oct. 27.

The NW Mobilization is part of a larger anti-war protest across the nation, with a total of 11 regional protests planned for that day.

The group is working with PDX Peace, a regional coalition of groups that promote peace and justice. The group plans to take chartered buses to Seattle for the Saturday protest, where members will be acting as coordinators while the protest takes place.

Along with the anti-war demonstration, SUN’s goal this year is to “keep the integrity of our charter while building good relationships within the community as well as with other student groups,” Tolomei said.

“I joined SUN because of the event Code Pink,” said Jae Yslas, a longtime volunteer for the group. “I have initially always supported the SUN members, especially their involvement with groups outside of campus but within the community.”

Yslas, who has previously fought for handicapped veterans, low-income housing issues and environmental initiatives, has advocated for change within the PSU activist community for as long as she has been a student.

“SUN’s ambition is to recruit people, like Students for Unity; a lot of students show up to a lot of events but don’t actually become members.”

Yslas hopes that before she and Tolomei graduate this spring, there will be at least 25 constant members.

“We see this as a really valuable program, because most students wouldn’t have a place to go voice their opinions otherwise,” she said.

Yslas said she hopes the future brings about changes not only with more people–especially students–but also with the resources available.

“The Multicultural Center has been a great help,” she said about effecting change around campus. “They bring in diverse groups and allows for them to use their space. It brings a unique and vital importance to what we at SUN want to do.”

Yslas said she hopes the group is able to create relationships with other organizations and groups around campus to create change in the future.