Becca Rast is a senior at J.P. McCaskey High School, in Lancaster, PA. Nick Martin is a recent graduate from Penn Manor High School, also in Lancaster. In February 2007 they co-founded Lancaster Students for a Democratic Society, one of the few SDS chapters that is primarily made up of high school students. They have approximately 50 members, representing eight of Lancaster County’s 16 high schools. The chapter has focused a large part of its work on ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. In September they affiliated with the War Resisters League.
Lancaster SDS is deeply rooted in the local community. Many members have attended the same church for years, and others have been active in the Lancaster Coalition for Peace & Justice. Becca says that as an organizer, you need to "take steps to integrate yourself into the community. Just talking to people and building up a respect actually accomplishes more than anything. And not being rude if someone doesn’t agree with you, but sitting down and talking with them and not just brushing them off."
She also stresses the importance of activating "people who agree with you but aren't doing anything."
Nick adds, “We need to find a way to put everyday people into a situation where they feel they’re making a positive impact or creating change in an effective way… Tapping into existing communities, like churches, is the most important thing for us, I think. Already existing school groups and religious groups – that’s where most of our members come from.”
The chapter has been organizing students to take monthly actions as part of the Iraq Moratorium. When Bush visited in October, they helped to mobilize 400 people, including 150 students, with only five days notice. Lancaster SDS is also working to get truth in military recruitment info into area high schools.
Becca and Nick hope to be working for peace and social justice for a long time, and both have become active in national WRL work through the Organizing Task Force.